Cold War

Dafato Team | May 25, 2022

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Cold War (Russian Холодная война, Kholodnaya voïna) is the name given to the period of high geopolitical tensions during the second half of the twentieth century, between the United States and its constituent allies of the Western bloc on the one hand, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and its satellite states forming the Eastern bloc on the other. The Cold War gradually took hold from the end of the Second World War in the years 1945 to 1947 and lasted until the fall of the communist regimes in Europe in 1989, quickly followed by the breakup of the USSR in December 1991.

British writer George Orwell was the first to use the term "Cold War" in the post-war context in 1945. The term gained currency in 1947 when Bernard Baruch, an advisor to President Truman, used it in a speech, and then when his friend Walter Lippmann, a widely read journalist, used it in a series of articles published in the New York Herald Tribune.

The roots of the Cold War go back to the October Revolution of 1917, from which the Soviet Union was born in 1922. The difficult relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union stems from the very nature of their political regimes and the ideologies that underlie them. During the interwar period, however, their hopes for a revolutionary wave in Europe having been disappointed, the Soviets favoured the consolidation of their regime; but, at the end of the Second World War, the USSR was among the victors over Nazi Germany and occupied most of Eastern Europe, which it placed under its control by imposing a series of satellite regimes. In addition to Europe, now cut in two by the "Iron Curtain", communism also spread to Asia with the victory of the communists in China. In the United States, Harry S. Truman, who succeeded Franklin Delano Roosevelt in April 1945, considered that the future and security of the United States could not be ensured by a return to isolationism, but must instead be based on a foreign policy of propagating its democratic and liberal model, defending its economic interests and containing communism.

The Cold War was multi-dimensional, driven more by ideological and political differences between the Western democracies and the Communist regimes than by territorial ambitions. It had strong repercussions in all areas: economic, cultural, scientific, sporting and media.

It is also characterized by the nuclear arms race between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, which devoted colossal resources to it. It is described as "cold" because the American and Soviet leaders who led it were able to avoid direct confrontation between their countries, at least in part for fear of triggering a nuclear apocalypse, and because Europe did not experience a war despite several serious crises. But on other continents, especially in Asia, open conflicts have caused many civilian and military casualties: the Korean War, the Indochina War, the Vietnam War, the Afghan War and the Cambodian genocide have resulted in about ten million deaths.

The Arab-Israeli conflict divided the two blocs. The State of Israel, initially closer to the Soviet Union, was hostile to Franco's Spain, Portugal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, while the other European countries of the Western bloc supported Israel. Conversely, the Eastern bloc countries supported Israel at the time of its creation, but eventually moved closer to the Arab countries and supported the creation of a Palestinian state.

In this context of bipolarization of international relations and decolonization, Third World countries such as India under Jawaharlal Nehru, Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser and Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito formed the non-aligned movement, proclaiming their neutrality and playing on the rivalry between the blocs to obtain concessions. Another major event of the second half of the 20th century, decolonization provided the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China with multiple opportunities to increase their influence at the expense of the former colonial powers.

The Cold War has had a profound effect on the history of the second half of the 20th century. This term has become established, although it is more applicable to American-Soviet relations and to Europe than to the rest of the world. Raymond Aron sees this period as a "limited war" or a "bellicose peace" in a bipolar world where the belligerents avoid direct confrontation, summarizing it with the expression: "Impossible peace, improbable war". The specificity of the Cold War is to be a global conflict, multi-dimensional, driven more by ideological and political differences between Western democracies and communist regimes than by territorial ambitions. It has strong repercussions in all areas, especially economic and cultural. It takes all possible forms of confrontation, from espionage to secret actions through propaganda, from technological competition to the conquest of space through sports competitions.

Early uses of the term "Cold War

British writer George Orwell was the first to use the term "Cold War" in the post-war era, in his essay You and the Atomic Bomb, published in October 1945, in which he expressed his fear that the world was heading "towards an era as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity" and would be "in a permanent state of cold war. The expression spread in 1947 when Bernard Baruch, an influential advisor to several Democratic presidents, proclaimed in a speech: "Make no mistake, we are now in the midst of a cold war", and then with the publication by journalist Walter Lippmann of his book The Cold War.

Global chronology

The length of the Cold War, the number of events that took place during it, and the changes in the leaders who were the key players, have led historians to distinguish several phases that make it possible to describe in a synthetic way the rise of the Cold War, the periods of détente or, on the contrary, of tension, and then its end with the break-up of the Soviet bloc:

The works devoted to the Cold War as a whole and referenced in the bibliographic section of this article, do not all adopt the same chronological breakdown. According to the authors, the beginning of the Cold War is situated either at the end of the Second World War, or a little later, in 1947 or even 1948. The years 1945-1946 are most often considered as a transition period, with 1947 marking, according to C. Durandin, "the assumed entry into the Cold War of yesterday's provisional Allies. Some authors, such as Pierre Grosser, Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad, have devoted considerable attention to the origins of the Cold War, which they trace back to the beginning of the twentieth century and more particularly to the October Revolution of 1917. As for the end of the Cold War, Georges-Henri Soutou places it between the summer of 1989 and the fall of 1990. Maurice Vaïsse highlights 1989, "the year of all miracles in the East". Others extend their account until the dissolution of the USSR at the end of 1991, or even 1992. The Cambridge History of the Cold War, a monumental work published in 2010, begins with an analysis of the ideological roots of the Cold War resulting from the October Revolution of 1917 and ends with the reunification of Germany and the disappearance of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The division into five phases used in this article is adopted by Maurice Vaïsse, Allan Todd and others, but the boundaries and titles of these phases are not strictly identical. Maurice Vaïsse emphasizes that the dates chosen are "simple markers, not milestones": détente, for example, did not end abruptly in 1973, it reached its apogee in 1975 at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Helsinki, but since 1973 the world has not lived entirely in the era of détente. For Maurice Vaïsse, the years 1956-1962 were those of "peaceful coexistence", while Georges-Henri Soutou sees them above all as a period of successive crises. In La guerre froide 1943-1990, Soutou favors a finer division into twenty chronological chapters, the first of which details the goals of the war in 1941-1945, described as the roots of the Cold War, and the last devoted to the years 1989-1990.

Bipolarity around the two "Bigs", the United States and the Soviet Union

Relations between the United States and the Soviet Union are the main thread in the development of the Cold War, whose successive phases of cooling or warming are strongly influenced by the personality of their respective leaders. The summits between these leaders are the most spectacular manifestation of this. During the Second World War, three summit conferences were held between American, Soviet and British leaders. This practice ceased after the war and was replaced by ministerial-level conferences between 1945 and 1955. In 1955, a summit was held in Geneva on the initiative of Churchill, reviving this practice, which became fairly regular until the end of the Cold War. From 1959 to 1991, twenty-two summits were held, most of them between Americans and Soviets. They essentially reflected the desire to reduce the risks of nuclear war and to reduce the enormous costs of the arms race by limiting the nuclear arsenals on both sides.

The five victors of the Second World War agreed in 1945 to set up the United Nations Organization with the aim of peacefully settling conflicts between nations. But by granting themselves, at Stalin's insistence, the position of permanent member of the Security Council and a right of veto over its resolutions, these countries also created the conditions for blocking the action of the United Nations as soon as their major interests were at stake.

As early as the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville predicted that the United States and the Russian Empire were both destined to become empires on a global scale, and to confront each other as soon as they came into contact. He wrote that "each of them seems to be called upon by a secret design of Providence to hold one day in its hands the destinies of half the world.

The roots of the Cold War go back to the October Revolution of 1917, from which the Soviet Union was born in 1922. The intervention of the Americans and the British in the Russian civil war developed in Stalin a deep distrust of them until the end of his life. In the interwar period, the United States was already at odds with the Communist regime in the Soviet Union, even though the Soviets had disappointed their hopes for a revolutionary wave in Europe and were focusing on the domestic consolidation of their regime. The difficult relations between the United States and the Soviet Union stemmed from the very nature of their political regimes and the ideologies that underlay them. However, the most marked opposition during this period was that between the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom; political leaders such as Winston Churchill were virulently anti-communist. The United States finally recognized the Soviet Union diplomatically in 1933 out of political realism, as Roosevelt saw it as a counterweight to the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo axis.

At the end of World War II, this opposition was crystallized by the fact that the United States and the Soviet Union had become the only major world powers, with the decline of the Europeans, and that their respective interests in national security, foreign policy and economic development were soon in direct conflict. The deterioration in relations also resulted from the climate of mistrust that was taking hold: the Soviet Union was a closed society - especially under Stalin - which fueled doubts and fears about its real intentions with regard to the Western powers, whose frequent changes in government and policy according to successive elections perplexed Soviet analysts.

Finally, the nuclear arms race in which the two great powers engaged was to profoundly structure international relations throughout the Cold War.

Four major issues of disagreement between Americans and Soviets at the end of the war

At the end of the Second World War, the European states, ruined by the war and struggling with decolonization, no longer dominated the world. The bipolarization of international relations around the Americans and the Soviets, which had been announced a long time ago, was a given by 1947, and was confirmed in September 1949 by the Soviet Union's accession to nuclear weapons. The only real superpower until the end of the 1950s, the United States enjoyed a strong strategic military superiority thanks to its advance in the field of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and above all it had overwhelming economic and financial power: at the end of the war, the United States possessed two-thirds of the world's gold reserves, and accounted for more than half of world manufacturing production. In 1950, the GNP of the USSR was only about one-third that of the United States. The Soviet Union, for its part, has a decisive military force in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as considerable political prestige.

The Grand Alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union was aimed at bringing down Nazi Germany. During the Second World War, the ideological and political incompatibility between the liberal democracies and the Soviet regime took a back seat. The first cracks appeared between the Allies in 1945 during the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. In the eighteen months that followed, the deterioration of relations between Americans and Soviets crystallized around four main subjects of disagreement that would lead to the state of the Cold War being irreversibly established: the national security imperatives of the two Great Ones, the future of Germany, the fate of Poland and Eastern Europe in general, and the economic reconstruction of the world.

The confrontation between the two great powers was primarily based on their national security imperatives. The Allies had agreed during the war to establish "a general international organization for the preservation of peace and security. On June 26, 1945, buoyed by public opinion shocked by the Nazi exactions and the cruelty of the fighting, delegates from 51 countries approved in San Francisco the Charter of the United Nations, the founding text of the United Nations Organization (UNO), whose most important objective was to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in the space of a human lifetime has brought untold suffering to mankind. The most important powers were vested in the Security Council, which initially had eleven members, including five permanent members: the United States, the USSR, China, Great Britain and France. The voting system was such that a resolution could not be adopted if one of the permanent members voted against it, thus giving a veto right to the great powers, which frequently used it to block any resolution that was contrary to their interests.

The United States looked forward to a cooperative relationship with the Soviet Union in the post-war world, but it also wondered. If the power of the Red Army worries the West, the state of devastation of the country in relation to the United States - which has never been so economically dominant - reassures. Militarily, moreover, the Soviets were not in a position to attack American territory. Truman considered that the financial and economic domination of the United States, combined with its strategic air power, were sufficient assets to rule out any risk of the USSR acquiring a dominant position in the short term.

The big question in Washington is whether the Kremlin's real ambitions go beyond those resulting from security imperatives, and therefore defensive, or whether they constitute a threat to the entire European continent, the loss of which would seriously harm the vital geopolitical and economic interests of the United States. The risk appears all the greater since the aspirations of the people after years of deprivation favor the parties of the left, including primarily the Communist parties, and thus offer the Soviets an opportunity to take control of the countries of Western Europe and the Middle East without necessarily starting an open war, and to undermine the American economy by depriving it of its trading area and access to natural resources, especially oil. In any case, Truman considered that the future and security of the United States could not be ensured by a return to isolationism, but had to be based on a foreign policy of spreading its democratic and liberal model, defending its economic interests and containing communism.

Stalin's concerns are symmetrical to those of the Americans: to protect the USSR from the consequences of a possible future confrontation with the former allies of the war by constituting a sufficiently large buffer zone. In practice, Stalin wanted first of all to have complete control over the countries that had been occupied by his army, even at the cost of bending the agreements signed at Yalta and Potsdam.

These essentially defensive policies carried out by the United States and the USSR, as the archives available today demonstrate, could also have been interpreted at the time as a desire for world hegemony by both sides.

Since September 1945, in application of the Potsdam agreements, the diplomats of the four victors of the war in Europe have met on numerous occasions with the aim of finding answers to the questions of peace, economic development and security in Europe. The main topic was the settlement of the German problem which, due to a lack of agreement, led to the establishment, in 1949, of two German states, the FRG and the GDR, anchored respectively in the Western camp and the Communist camp. However, these international conferences led in a decade (1945-1955) to peace agreements with all the belligerent countries of the Second World War (with the major exception of Germany) and to the establishment of alliances and intergovernmental institutions that governed each of the two blocs in Europe until the end of the Cold War.

In Germany, in their zone of occupation, the Soviets initially carried out the denazification decided at the Potsdam conference with vigor. More than 120,000 people were interned in "special camps" that existed until 1950. 42,000 prisoners died from deprivation and abuse. This brutal purge policy gradually gave way to a more flexible approach to meet the needs of the new state of East Germany (GDR), with the appointment of former Nazi party cadres to key positions in the administration, police and judiciary, the "recycling" of several thousand agents who had worked for the Third Reich into the new East German security services, and the retention of many civil servants in their former positions in the administration.

The Western allies, on the other hand, relied more on a "re-education" (Umerziehung) of the German people, combined with a policy of leniency towards the "followers" (Mitläufer) and supporters of the Nazi regime.

In 1945, Stalin took advantage of the victory of the Red Army to enlarge the USSR by pushing its borders further west by annexing the Baltic States and territories east of Poland. At the same time, the Potsdam Conference decided to annex to Poland the German territories located east of the Oder and Neisse rivers. The eastern border of Poland became the "Curzon Line".

The Soviet leader also wanted to protect the USSR from a new attack by creating a territorial "glacis", i.e. a protective space, which kept potential threats away from Soviet borders. To do this, he largely freed himself from the Yalta and Potsdam agreements and imposed between 1945 and 1948 pro-Soviet governments in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe occupied by the Red Army (with the exception of Austria), countries that became "People's Democracies". The "Prague coup" of February 1948 in Czechoslovakia - one of the few real pre-war democracies in Eastern Europe - was the last act.

Economic development is a crucial factor in the US-Soviet competition. The Soviet economic system, born and nurtured by the crises of capitalism, is based on principles that are totally opposed to it, but aims at the same objective of economic growth, in order to ensure the material well-being of the majority of the population in the future.

In the West, the strengthening of the state and the adjustments made to the capitalist system through the development of education and the protection of citizens ensured sufficient cohesion in society to accept the negative consequences of the East-West confrontation. In the East, the leaders were convinced that the capitalist system would eventually collapse and that the communist system, based on the centralization and state control of the economy, was superior to it; moreover, during at least the first ten years of the Cold War, the need to rebuild the industry and urban centers of the USSR mobilized the population, which accepted with courage and discipline that the satisfaction of their personal needs would be deferred.

Over the duration of the Cold War, the economies of both the West and the East grew significantly, by a factor of about four in constant currency between 1950 and 1989, but the USSR did not catch up with the United States, and the economies of Eastern Europe were only one fifth of those of Western Europe.

In the aftermath of the war, the United States dominated the world economically and financially, while Europe and the USSR were exhausted and had to rebuild themselves. The United States therefore had every opportunity to organize the economic and financial reconstruction of the world on bases consistent with their system, which were incompatible with those of the communist system and would jeopardize it because of the impossibility for the USSR to be part of an open market economy. Stalin will thus reject the agreements and international structures set up by the Americans.

The Bretton Woods Agreement, signed on July 22, 1944 at a conference attended by 44 countries, created a new world monetary and financial order based on the U.S. dollar in order to avoid the economic instability that existed between the two world wars and to revive international trade. These agreements established an International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as an International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), commonly referred to as the World Bank. The IMF and IBRD's mission was to ensure the stability of national currencies and to grant loans for reconstruction and development. In May 1947, France became the first country to receive a loan from the World Bank in the amount of $250 million.

These agreements establish a system of fixed parities against the U.S. dollar, the only currency fully convertible into gold, of which the United States has three-quarters of the world's reserves.

The Soviet Union, which took part in the negotiations, feared that the IMF would become an instrument for the benefit of the capitalist countries and would hinder its policy of building an Eastern bloc around itself; it therefore did not ratify the agreements. On the other hand, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, which still had some room for manoeuvre vis-à-vis the USSR at the end of 1945, signed the agreements.

It was necessary to supplement the financial component set up at Bretton Woods with a component that encouraged the development of international trade by lowering customs barriers. Led directly by the United States, the discussions led in October 1947 to a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (or GATT), which was supposed to be provisional and signed by 23 countries. The USSR did not participate in these negotiations and did not sign this agreement, which was signed only by Czechoslovakia among the members of the Eastern bloc. Throughout the Cold War, the GATT was the only international organization with competence in trade matters.

Centrality of the nuclear fact during the cold war

One of the characteristic elements of the Cold War is the centrality of the nuclear fact in relations between the great powers, in defence policies and in strategic thinking. The possession of nuclear weapons, used in 1945 by the United States in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and developed at a rapid pace by the USSR, which detonated a first device in 1949, established them as the only two great powers in the world, to the detriment of the United Kingdom and France, which were struggling with decolonization. Nuclear deterrence gradually became a major fact of international relations, leading the middle powers, China, France and the United Kingdom, to acquire a nuclear strike force in order to continue to make their voice heard in the international arena and not to be strategically dependent on the two great powers. In the European theater, considerable quantities of conventional and tactical nuclear weapons have been accumulated within the two major alliances, NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

The unparalleled destructive capacity of atomic weapons, which for the first time made the United States truly vulnerable to attack, and the strategic arms race that resulted from the fear that each of the two great powers had of being overtaken and thus put in a position of inferiority by its rival, symbolized the Cold War even more than its ideological, political or economic dimensions.

Until the end of the 1950s, the doctrine for the use of these new weapons remained subject to numerous hesitations and operational limitations, which considerably reduced their impact on the concrete negotiations and crises that marked the beginning of the Cold War. However, the nuclear monopoly of the United States until 1949 was largely responsible for the demand of most Western European states to form the Atlantic Alliance in order to benefit from the "American atomic umbrella" to counterbalance the enormous superiority of the Soviet Union in conventional forces.

Was the nuclear weapon a determining factor in the fact that the confrontation between the two great powers did not lead to a direct open war between them? Some authors think so, others believe that, as demonstrated by the First World War and then on an even greater scale by the Second World War, the destruction inflicted on all the belligerents in a large-scale war waged with the means specific to the twentieth century was sufficient to discourage the two sides from embarking on a military escalation that they could no longer control.

From the "Great Alliance" to the Cold War (1945-1947)

With victory over the Axis in sight, the "Grand Alliance" was still a reality in 1945: at Yalta and Potsdam, the Allies defined the modalities according to which the transition between the state of war and peace would be managed, and set up, with the United Nations, an instrument of world governance.

The end of 1945 and 1946 were a period of transition during which the United States was still seeking an agreement with the Soviet Union, which for its part was advancing its pawns cautiously, without wishing to break with the West, which alternated between concessions and firmness.

Germany was immediately the most difficult subject. Having suffered considerable human and material losses during the war, the Soviet Union wanted Germany to be unable to reconstitute an industry and capabilities that would one day allow it to become a power again. The Soviets also wanted to receive the highest possible war reparations. This was the vision of the Morgenthau Plan of 1944, which proposed the return of Germany to an essentially agricultural state without heavy industry. Although the plan was never officially ratified, it strongly influenced the American directive JCS 1067 on the occupation of Germany, issued in 1945. But the economic cost of avoiding the prolongation of the extreme misery of the German people and the fears that it would open the way to the communists led the American government to abandon this approach and to announce in 1946, through the voice of its Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, a new policy of restoring a viable German state. The differences of opinion between the occupying powers led to a deadlock in the quadripartite management of Germany.

In Eastern Europe, in all the countries liberated by the Red Army, the Communist Party had a strong presence in the governments formed in the aftermath. The end of 1945 saw the establishment of Soviet-controlled regimes in Albania, Bulgaria and Romania, and the definitive establishment of Tito's power in Yugoslavia. The West agreed to recognize the Bulgarian and Romanian governments in exchange for the promise of free elections, which never took place. In Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the elections led to the formation of coalition governments in which the Communists held key positions, such as the Ministry of the Interior. In 1945, in Poland, Stalin accepted the Anglo-American request to set up a coalition government after having initially set up a communist government; he waited until early 1947, with the help of rigged elections, to regain definitive control of the country. The meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the four allies, established by the Potsdam agreements, only resulted in an agreement to sign peace treaties with the former allies of Nazi Germany (Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Italy and Romania), but disagreements remained over Germany and Austria.

In the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, Stalin's attempts to enlarge the Soviet zone of influence were the cause of the first "crises" between the Soviets and the West over Turkey, Iran and Greece; the latter did not give in, and Stalin gave up his ambitions. The situation in Iran was the occasion for the first convocation of the UN Security Council in January 1946. The Council could do nothing but ask the Iranians and the Russians to negotiate directly, which already highlighted its powerlessness to resolve crises involving one of its permanent members who held the veto. More generally, the repeated use of the veto by the Soviets already marks the failure of Roosevelt's optimistic vision of establishing a form of global governance.

In Asia, Japan was under the control of the United States, which refused to allow the Soviets to play a role there, much to Stalin's fury. The Americans occupied it militarily until the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951. But in China, the nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek was on the defensive against the communist movement of Mao Zedong. Stalin played both sides of the fence, cooperating with the regime while securing control of Manchuria in the northeast and providing aid to the Communist insurgency. General Marshall, sent to China throughout 1946, failed to reach an agreement between nationalists and communists, which put an end to hopes of keeping China in the Western zone of influence.

Nuclear issues were also a subject of disagreement between the United States and the USSR. The Americans thought they could remain the only ones with nuclear weapons for a long time, but they discovered that the Soviets had been spying on their Manhattan program since its inception and were closer than expected to developing them. In 1946, the Baruch Plan, presented by the United States to the UN Atomic Energy Commission, proposed the creation of an international authority with a nuclear monopoly and ownership of uranium mines. The plan was rejected by the Soviet Union, which wanted the existing arsenals (at that time exclusively American) to be dismantled before this authority was created. Winston Churchill, in his famous Fulton speech (1946), also criticized the Baruch plan.

In the United Kingdom, Attlee's Labour government was primarily concerned with maintaining the country's global role and redressing its difficult economic and financial situation. But it found itself in the front line in the Mediterranean and the Middle East to resist Stalin's advances. Growing concern about Stalin's true intentions led him to strengthen his "special relationship" with the United States both to adopt a common policy on the German question and to receive practical help in the crisis areas where it was exposed. In March 1946, Churchill, in opposition, gave a speech in the United States in the presence of Truman, which became famous in which he denounced the "Iron Curtain" that now divided Europe into two.

In 1946, France was still primarily concerned with avoiding the resurgence of the German threat, and its ambition was to be able to pursue a policy of neutrality between the United States and the USSR, which would enable it to dominate Western Europe. The PCF was powerful and the USSR prestigious, which led the French governments, whether the GPRF of de Gaulle or the first governments of the Fourth Republic, to seek its support. Given the failure of this policy, the need to move closer to Anglo-American theses on the reconstruction of Germany began to prevail.

In 1947, the United States committed itself resolutely against the USSR, stating the Truman Doctrine of containment of communism and gave priority to the rescue of Western Europe by launching the Marshall Plan. The Soviets reacted by creating the Cominform and formulating the Zhdanov doctrine. At the same time, the Communist parties in Western and Northern Europe, which in many countries had participated in the coalition governments that had emerged from the war, were ousted from power and relegated to the opposition. The partition of Germany began with the creation of the Anglo-American bizone, and the three Western powers embarked on the road to a Western alliance.

Truman delivered a speech on March 12, 1947, which clearly marked the commitment of the United States in Greece and Turkey, far beyond its traditional sphere of vital interests in America and even beyond Western Europe, with its traditional English and French allies, quickly known as the Truman doctrine.

After two years of hesitation, the United States adopted the policy of containment that would be followed for decades at the initiative of George Kennan, one of the best experts on the Soviet world. In lectures given in 1946 and 1947, and especially through the publication in March 1947 of an article that had a tremendous echo, he established the basis of the American policy of containment of communism.

To overcome the reluctant, especially in the Republican ranks, Truman played a lot of ideological leverage by making the United States the champion of freedom, democracy and human rights, thus ensuring strong support in the population and triggering a strong anti-communist feeling in the country. He stated that "it is time to put the United States in the camp and at the head of the free world. He succeeded in obtaining the support of Vandenberg, the Republican leader in the Senate, and voted $400 million in aid to these two countries on 22 May 1947.

In order to ensure the implementation of this policy, Washington reorganized its military tool and created, via the National Security Act of July 26, 1947, two essential organs for the conduct of policy throughout the Cold War, the NSC and the CIA.

The United States resolutely turned its back on isolationism and considered that any communist advance should be countered wherever it occurred. Some, such as the columnist Walter Lippmann, who published a series of articles in a book in 1947 entitled Cold War, argued that the vital interests of the United States were not threatened everywhere and that its involvement should therefore be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

In January 1947, Truman appointed Marshall as Secretary of State. The fourth AMCEN held in Moscow in March-April 1947 did not allow for a rapprochement of views on the future of Germany. The failure of this conference was an essential step towards the East-West split. Marshall, convinced that the situation in Europe called for urgent and massive measures, devised a programme for the recovery of Europe, known as the Marshall Plan, which he announced on 5 June 1947. At the beginning of July 1947, the new occupation directive JCS 1779, applicable to the American zone of occupation in Germany, took the opposite view of the previous directive issued under the Morgenthau plan, by affirming that the prosperity of Europe depended on the economic recovery of Germany.

The Marshall Plan was offered to the whole of Europe, including the countries of Eastern Europe, and even to the Soviet Union. However, two conditions were attached to it: firstly, American aid would be managed by joint European institutions, and secondly, the American federal government would have a say in its distribution. Stalin hesitated, then, at the end of June, announced his refusal. Poland and Czechoslovakia, which initially responded favourably to the American proposal, were forced to refuse it in turn. Finally, sixteen countries, joined in 1949 by West Germany (FRG), accepted the Marshall Plan, with France and the United Kingdom as the main beneficiaries. In April 1948, these sixteen countries founded the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), a supranational organization whose primary function was to manage and distribute American aid among the member countries. From 1948 to 1952, more than thirteen billion US dollars - 5

In response to the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan - which he denounced as aiming "at the economic and political enslavement of Europe" - Stalin convened the European communist parties in Szklarska Poręba for the founding conference of the Cominform, during which Andrei Zhdanov presented his report on the international situation on September 22, 1947, which presented a vision of the world in two irreducibly opposed camps: an "imperialist and anti-democratic" camp led by the United States and an "anti-imperialist and democratic" camp led by the USSR. It denounced "American imperialism" which vassalized European economies by placing them under the tutelage of Washington. The official aim of the Cominform is "the exchange of experiences and the coordination of the activity of the Communist parties". In fact, it is a question of affirming the authority of the CPSU and orienting the political line of the CPF and the ICP in the direction desired by Moscow.

On May 5, 1947, the President of the Council, Paul Ramadier, decided to exclude the Communist ministers from the French government. In the same way, the communists were excluded from the government in Rome and Brussels during the spring of 1947. These exclusions marked the end of the alliances formed during the Resistance and a clear political split between the communist parties and the other parties, opening the way for the formation of a Western Europe and an Atlantic alliance.

In November and December 1947, at the instigation of the communists, large-scale strikes were launched in France and Italy, where a new cold winter and the maintenance of food rationing led to the exasperation of a population that did not see its living conditions improve significantly more than two years after the Liberation. The primary objective was to derail the Marshall Plan and, if necessary, to take advantage of a revolutionary situation. In the end, the governments in place held firm.

General de Gaulle's geopolitical plan, at the head of the GPRF until January 1946, was to control and divide Germany in order to prevent a resurgence of its power, in a policy of balance between the two very great powers and a collective guarantee of security involving them. Initially, the emphasis was placed on rapprochement with Moscow, with the conclusion of an alliance treaty between France and the USSR on December 10, 1944.

Disappointed by the attitude of the Soviets, who did not support French positions on the German question, de Gaulle put forward the idea of a "Western Europe" in the autumn of 1945, grouping together France, the Benelux countries, Italy, the Rhineland and the Ruhr, and perhaps the United Kingdom, with the twofold aim of avoiding the resurgence of a united Germany and of countering the Soviet policy, which was increasingly perceived as hegemonic and hostile to France's interests.

While remaining in line with de Gaulle's general policy, in May 1946 Léon Blum and Georges Bidault brought France's foreign policy closer to the United States with the signing of the Blum-Byrnes agreements granting financial aid to France.

France did not obtain satisfaction at the 1946 sessions of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the four former wartime allies and the Allied Control Council. The statements made by G. Bidault on July 10, 1946, during the second CMAE, outlining France's position on the conditions of the occupation of Germany, and by Molotov on the German policy of the Soviet Union, illustrate the deep disagreements between the former allies that led to the failure of this conference.

On December 2, 1946, the United States and Great Britain merged their zones of occupation in Germany, forming the bizone. France did not join because of domestic political considerations: the PCF was in government, the USSR enjoyed the prestige of the victor of the war, and communist ideology enjoyed broad support. It was impossible to align oneself too quickly with a too clearly Atlanticist line.

At the beginning of 1947, the first government of the Fourth Republic, led by Paul Ramadier, prolonged the tripartism of the GPRF and consequently, in terms of foreign policy, pursued a policy of neutrality and balance between the great powers, the conclusion of bilateral alliances and the maintenance of the colonial Empire. The Dunkirk treaty of mutual assistance between France and the United Kingdom was signed on March 4, 1947; Germany was still designated as the enemy.

In the context of the first strikes of 1947, the exclusion of the Communist ministers from the Ramadier government on May 5, 1947 put an end to the tripartite system and created the conditions for a change in foreign policy. At the end of the Paris conference in the summer of 1947, the Soviets confirmed their refusal of the Marshall Plan, which led France to definitively revise its policy on Germany, to accept the division of Europe and to fully join the Western camp. The fifth meeting of the CMAE in London ended on December 15, 1947, with a new report of failure. In the aftermath, France agreed to study the merger of the French zone of occupation with the Anglo-American bizone; the trizone thus formed would be a decisive step towards the formation of a West German state. However, France maintained its demand for an agreement on the Saar and especially the Ruhr. France also agreed to open secret discussions with the United States on the establishment of a collective security alliance in Western Europe; these negotiations gave rise to the North Atlantic Treaty.

First crises in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East (1945-1949)

The United Kingdom had been the dominant power in the region for decades and aspired to remain so. Hoping to take advantage of the weakness of the British in 1945, Stalin began to advance his pawns to extend his zone of influence in Europe and break what he felt was the encirclement of the USSR from the south. In 1946, the United States began to support the British, reflecting the gradual hardening of American policy and leading Stalin to back down.

In 1945 and 1946, Turkey was the object of strong pressure from the Soviets to obtain border rectifications in Anatolia and, above all, to revise the Montreux Convention of 1936, which governed navigation in the Black Sea and the crossing of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, in exchange for an alliance. The crisis of the straits pushed the Turks to get closer to the Anglo-Americans. Truman decided to send a permanent naval force to the Mediterranean, at the origin of the Sixth Fleet. Stalin refused the proposals drawn up jointly by London and Washington to hold an international conference involving Ankara and all the parties, and gave up pushing the matter further.

The Iranian-Soviet crisis was the very first showdown of the emerging Cold War. In the summer of 1941, the USSR and the United Kingdom, seeking a route for arms and supplies to the Russian front, had agreed to each occupy half of Iran and depose Shah Reza Pahlavi, guilty of too much sympathy for the Axis. His son, Mohammed Reza, who succeeded him, concluded a treaty with these powers providing for the withdrawal of their troops by March 2, 1946. Very quickly, however, the USSR supported two independence movements in the north of the country in order to form a protective glacis as it did in Europe. Negotiations concerning the granting of new oil concessions to the Soviets and Western pressure finally led the Red Army to withdraw.

When the Axis occupiers withdrew in October 1944, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) was in a strong position among the victorious resistance movements federated in the EAM-ELAS. But the British in no way wanted the country to fall into the hands of the Communists; Churchill had concluded an agreement to this effect with Stalin at a conference in Moscow in October 1944 and sent troops to secure Athens and Salonika. The British and the Greek Communists clashed militarily between December 1944 and January 1945. Respecting his agreement with Churchill confirmed at the Yalta conference, Stalin asked the Greek communists to find a political solution. On 9 February 1945, an agreement was signed in Várkiza, providing for the laying down of arms and a regency exercised by Metropolitan Damaskinos of Athens until the return of King George II.

But the Great Alliance of the war gradually gave way to the Cold War. From then on, the KKE, once again supported by neighboring communist countries and in particular Yugoslavia, took up arms again in the spring of 1946 in response to the very repressive policies of the government, which relied heavily on right-wing militias. The civil war raged for three years. The balance of power shifted with the increase in aid from the United States and with the break between the USSR and Tito, who interrupted military aid to the KKE. The war ended with a heavy defeat of the Communist forces at Mount Grammos in August 1949, followed by the signing of a cease-fire on 16 October 1949. The war claimed more than 150,000 lives and left the country devastated and deeply divided.

Communist expansion in Asia (1945-1954)

At the end of World War II, the United States established its dominance over Japan, whose surrender brutally accelerated by the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki prevented the Soviets from participating sufficiently in the collapse of the Japanese empire to claim a role in the aftermath. The advance of Soviet troops into Manchuria and the small peninsula of Korea, however, created the conditions for the establishment of a communist state, North Korea.

Unlike in Europe, the extension of the Cold War to Asia was not the result of the deliberate policies of the two great powers but of events initiated in China, Indochina and Korea. It resulted in open wars with many civilian and military victims. Over the duration of the Cold War, the Korean War, the Indochina War, the Vietnam War, the Afghan War and the Cambodian genocide totalled around ten million deaths.

Stalin initially found it more advantageous to accommodate the nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek than to fully support the communist revolution led by Mao Zedong. On August 15, the Chinese government signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union, providing for the return of Manchuria to China and recognizing Soviet sovereignty in Port Arthur: the Chinese Communists appeared politically isolated by this strategic victory of the Nationalists. The United States tried to mediate and in November 1945 appointed General Marshall as U.S. Ambassador to China. An American mission was set up in Yan'an with the aim of forming a Communist-Nationalist coalition government. Faced with the increasingly obvious failure of this policy, Marshall returned to Washington in January 1947 to take up the post of Secretary of State.

During the talks, military operations began in September 1945: Nationalist troops advanced on the Communist stronghold of Shanxi, in order to take control of it. The Communist troops fought back and confronted the Nationalists until October, finally putting 13 divisions of the Kuomintang army out of action. The successive military defeats of the Nationalists led to the proclamation of the People's Republic of China by Mao Zedong on 1 October 1949. Replacing the 1945 treaty, a treaty of friendship, alliance and mutual assistance was concluded with the Soviet Union on 14 February 1950.

After the defeat of Japan, France succeeded in re-establishing its authority over most of Indochina at the end of 1945. Simultaneously, on September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. After a period of negotiations, the conflict broke out with the bombing of the port of Haïphong by the French Navy on November 23, 1946. From then on, Ho Chi Minh rejected the option of the Indochinese Federation wanted by France. On December 19, 1946, the Hanoi insurrection marked the beginning of the war: the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam unleashed hostilities throughout northern Vietnam and went underground.

The war lasted until July 1954. The fall of the French entrenched camp of Diên Biên Phu in May, followed by the signing of the Geneva Accords, marked the end of French Indochina and the partition of Vietnam into two states, the communist North Vietnam and the South Vietnam supported by the United States, which took over from France and gradually engaged in what was to become the Vietnam War.

After the Japanese defeat in August 1945, Korea was cut in two at the 38th parallel: in the South, the pro-American Republic of Korea, led by Syngman Rhee, and in the North, the pro-Soviet Democratic People's Republic of Korea, led by Kim Il-sung. In 1948 and 1949, the Soviet and American armies left their respective zones of occupation on either side of the 38th parallel.

The North Koreans, soon supported by the Chinese, put pressure on Stalin to accept a military offensive to conquer South Korea. On 25 June 1950, the North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel. The reaction of the United States was immediate. On June 25 and 27, the United Nations condemned the North Korean aggression and decided to come to the aid of South Korea. The UN forces, commanded by MacArthur and made up mostly of American contingents, pushed back the North Korean forces and approached the Chinese border at the end of September 1950. But in October, the intervention of 850,000 "Chinese people's volunteers" forced the UN forces to retreat to the 38th parallel, where the front finally stabilized in March 1951.

To win the war, MacArthur proposed a plan to escalate the conflict to Truman: bombing Manchuria, naval blockade of the Chinese coast, landing of General Chiang Kai-shek's forces in South China and, if necessary, use of atomic weapons. Truman, who was convinced that such an initiative would provoke a Soviet intervention, refused and replaced him with General Matthew Ridgway.

On July 27, 1953, after the death of Stalin and after two years of talks, the armistice signed at Panmunjeom re-established the status quo ante bellum, but was not followed by a peace treaty.

First Berlin crisis and consolidation of the two blocs (1948-1955)

The year 1948 opened with the seizure of power by the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia, which put an end to the democratic regime in place since the end of the war. This event, known as the Prague coup, ended with all the countries east of the Iron Curtain coming under Soviet control. In response, the West decided to transform their trizone into a sovereign West German state in the short term during the conference held in London from April to June 1948. The first phase of the process was the creation of the Deutsche Mark, which became the common currency of the three Western zones on June 20. Stalin protested against this de facto division of Germany and, on June 23, 1948, took advantage of Berlin's geographical isolation to block all land and river access to the western sectors where more than two million people lived.

To save the city from asphyxiation, the British and Americans finally decided to set up an air bridge to ensure the supply of food, fuel and coal. During the eleven months of the blockade, the 275,000 flights carried out transported more than 2 million tons of freight. On 12 May 1949, aware of its failure, Stalin decided to lift the blockade.

On May 23, 1949, the division of Germany became official with the promulgation of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), the birth certificate of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, Bundesrepublik Deutschland), whose federal capital was Bonn. On October 7, 1949, the Soviet zone in turn formed a sovereign state, the German Democratic Republic (GDR, Deutsche Demokratische Republik), whose capital was East Berlin. The two entities refused to recognize each other legally.

This crisis diminished the prestige of the USSR in the world because of the images of starving Berliners resisting its policy of force and the humiliation represented by the failure of the blockade. At the same time, it increased the prestige of the United States in the eyes of West Germans, whose status changed from that of occupier to that of protector. The de facto division of Europe into two zones separated by the Iron Curtain became a reality accepted by both sides.

Maintaining the countries of Eastern Europe under its total control was a major concern of Stalin, which resulted in their complete sovietization in a few years, both politically and economically. Only Yugoslavia, led by Tito, succeeded in escaping the Soviet grip, but for the Cominform it represented the enemy to be destroyed.

On the political level, leaders who wanted to make their voices heard were dismissed, either by discreditation or intimidation, or by political trials in which they were accused of "titism", "deviationism", i.e. of deviating from Moscow's policy, "cosmopolitanism", "Zionism" or of working for the West. Many people were imprisoned or executed, the vast majority of them simply because they interfered with the regimes in place at the time, even though they were often genuine communists, such as the Hungarian László Rajk who was executed in 1949. The Czech Communist leader Klement Gottwald himself organized the Prague trials in 1952 in order both to remove his rivals and to excuse his difficulties. The communist leaders also did not tolerate any open demonstrations of opposition: the first of their kind, the workers' uprisings of June 1953 against the pro-Soviet communist regime in the German Democratic Republic were severely repressed.

Economically, the Eastern European satellite states were forced to apply the Soviet model: collectivization of agriculture, nationalization of almost all economic activities, and centralized five-year planning based on the USSR's timetable and five-year plans.

The consolidation of the Western bloc continued during these years with the establishment by the United States and its allies of an important network of defensive alliances in Europe and in the rest of the world: after the Brussels Treaty (1948) signed between Europeans, the North Atlantic Treaty sealed a strong alliance between the United States and its allies in Europe in April 1949. Because of the fears resulting from the outbreak of war in Korea, the signatories of this treaty decided at the end of 1950 to set up an integrated military structure, NATO, whose first Supreme Commander was General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Looser, multilateral alliances were also concluded in other geographical areas: the Organization of American States in 1948, ANZUS (1951), the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) (1954) and the Baghdad Pact (1955). The general principle behind all these alliances is that their signatory countries undertake to help each other in case of aggression. In Asia, Washington relied instead on strong bilateral alliances with Japan (1951 Security Treaty), the Philippines (1951 Mutual Defence Treaty) and South Korea (1953 Mutual Defence Treaty), accompanied by the right to station US forces.

On the Soviet side, in response to the Marshall Plan and the creation of the OEEC, the USSR founded the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, in English COMECON) in January 1949.

In return for a stronger military presence on European soil, the United States demanded the rearmament of West Germany (the FRG) in 1950, despite strong reluctance in Europe, and not only in France. The Western allies finally agreed on the French-initiated project to create a European army, which was given concrete form in the treaty establishing the European Defence Community signed in May 1952. At the same time, the Bonn Agreements restored most of West Germany's sovereign rights. After the French Parliament refused to ratify the EDC, the West agreed at the end of the Nine-Power Conference on the creation of the Western European Union, the entry of the FRG into NATO and the end of the occupation regime in the FRG. The resulting Paris Agreements were signed in October 1954 and came into force in May 1955.

In May 1955, following the admission of the FRG into NATO, the USSR created the Warsaw Pact, which formalized Soviet authority over the armies of the People's Democracies. The same year, the Hallstein doctrine, drawn up by the FRG, stated that anyone who recognized the GDR would in fact cut off diplomatic relations with Bonn, which asserted itself as the sole legitimate representative of Germany. The two blocs in Europe were formed and organized to last.

During the decade 1945-1955, the Middle East remained dominated by Western influences. Rich in oil, the region was the scene of struggles for influence between the Americans and the British and of nationalist currents that caused great instability without opening the door to communism. In 1955, the United States established an alliance with four of the main Arab states in the region through the Baghdad Pact. In Egypt, however, the British lost their privileged position and control of the Suez Canal with the coming to power of Nasser in 1954, who would symbolize pan-Arab nationalism until his death in 1970.

The United States has always considered Latin America as its exclusive zone of influence. In 1947, the American states signed the Rio Pact, a treaty of mutual assistance. Cooperation was strengthened in 1948 with the establishment of the Organization of American States (OAS), which includes the 20 American states. But as elsewhere, the continent was not free of troubles linked to nationalist aspirations, economic and social demands and American omnipotence. The Americans monitored the development of communist movements and wanted to avoid their accession to power at all costs. According to this logic, they participated in the 1954 coup d'état in Guatemala, which replaced a democratically elected government, close to the local communists, with a military dictatorship. In Paraguay, General Stroessner took advantage of a very unstable political situation to take power in 1954 and establish a dictatorial regime supported by the United States, where individual freedoms were restricted and opponents eliminated in the name of the fight against communism.

In Europe, the Communist parties were removed from government in 1947 in France and Italy. In the United States, the fight against Soviet espionage and communist sympathizers became a major political issue at the end of the war. Thanks to the Venona project for decrypting Soviet communications, the Americans became certain in 1946 that the secret Manhattan project for making the atomic bomb had been spied on by the Soviets. From 1946 onwards, the "Parliamentary Committee on Un-American Activities" (HUAC) focused its activity on communist activities. Among other things, artists suspected of communist sympathies were prevented from working; Bertolt Brecht, Charlie Chaplin, Jules Dassin or Orson Welles had to leave the United States. Playing on a new "red scare," Truman instituted a loyalty program for U.S. federal employees in 1947 to identify and remove federal employees guilty of communist sympathies. The investigations involved more than three million federal employees, several thousand of whom were forced to resign.

Between 1950 and 1954, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy led a veritable hunt for "Reds" historically known as McCarthyism. He had anyone he suspected of being a member or sympathizer of the Communist Party of the United States indicted; officials, artists, intellectuals, academics and politicians were targeted. Finally, in 1954, McCarthy questioned the loyalty of the army. He was rebuked by his Senate colleagues. His personal discredit ended the period of McCarthyism.

Towards the balance of nuclear terror (1949-1953)

In the summer of 1949, a certain optimism prevailed in Washington with the failure of the Berlin blockade, the defeat of the Communists in Greece and the break-up between Yugoslavia and the USSR. But the end of 1949 saw the situation deteriorate rapidly from the Western point of view with the explosion of the first Soviet atomic bomb, the victory of Mao Zedong in China and the conclusion of the Sino-Soviet pact.

It was in this context that a commission headed by Paul Nitze in the United States drew up a document entitled U.S. National Security Objectives and Programs, which was presented to Truman in April 1950 and whose content had a major influence on American policy in the following decades. Known as NSC-68, it strongly reassessed the Soviet threat and advocated a massive reinforcement of military means, believing that the diplomatic and economic action at the heart of American policy in previous years was not sufficient. At the same time, Truman decided to launch the production of a thermonuclear weapon (the H-bomb), the first test of which took place on 1 November 1952. At the same time, the Soviet nuclear program developed very rapidly, since it succeeded in carrying out a first H-bomb test in August 1953.

The setbacks suffered by the Americans after China's entry into the Korean War led them to consider the use of atomic weapons. Truman finally decided in favour of not using them, thus placing them in a role of deterrence, since their use presented risks of uncontrolled escalation, deterioration of international relations, including with allied countries, and reprobation by world opinion.

First wave of decolonization and birth of the non-aligned movement (1945-1957)

The end of the Second World War sounded the death knell of the colonial empires. The colonial powers, France and the United Kingdom first, were weakened while the United States and the USSR were anti-colonial and hoped to reap the benefits. A first wave of decolonization affected mainly the Near and Middle East and Southeast Asia from 1945 to 1957. France opposed it as much as it could because it counted on its empire to regain its pre-war grandeur.

In the Middle East, France was isolated and forced to abandon its mandates in Syria and Lebanon, while the withdrawal of the British from Palestine and Transjordan gave rise to Israel and Jordan. The proclamation of the State of Israel was refused by the Arab states and triggered the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli war. Italy was also forced to abandon its colonies: Libya gained independence in 1951, Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia and Somalia in 1960.

Decolonization in Asia was the result of very strong nationalist sentiment born of European and Japanese occupation. Between 1945 and 1957, a dozen states gained their independence, most often through war or violence, as was the case for the former French colonies of Indochina in 1954, or during the partition made to establish India and Pakistan in 1947, or in Indonesia, which the Netherlands had to give up in 1949. With the exception of Vietnam, communist insurrections such as those in Malaysia and Indonesia were not successful, as nationalist parties prevailed everywhere else.

Many of these new states wanted to support the accession to independence of countries that were still colonized and to assert their neutrality in the face of the two blocs. Twenty-nine of them, led by India, Indonesia and Egypt, took part in a major conference in Bandung in April 1955, which laid the foundations of the non-aligned movement. However, there were significant differences between those who were close to the West and those who developed relations with Moscow or Beijing.

Considerable resources devoted to intelligence and secret warfare

The intelligence services played an important role throughout the Cold War. In the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the primary foreign intelligence agency, was created in 1947 by the National Security Act. A 1948 NSC directive authorized the CIA to conduct covert operations in addition to its basic intelligence gathering mission. The National Security Agency (NSA), established in 1952 within the U.S. Department of Defense, is responsible for signals intelligence. The FBI ("Federal Bureau of Investigation") has been the U.S. federal agency responsible for domestic intelligence and counterintelligence since 1908.

In the Soviet Union, the Ministry of Government Security (MGB) was replaced in 1954 by the KGB ("Committee for State Security"), which had a dual role of internal security and foreign intelligence until its dissolution in 1991. Although it devoted most of its activities to its domestic role of state political police and counterintelligence, the KGB was also the largest intelligence service in the world. At its peak, it employed 480,000 people, including 200,000 at the borders, and millions of informants. The Red Army also had the GRU ("General Intelligence Directorate") under its direct authority.

In the field of intelligence, technical means are becoming increasingly important. As early as 1945, the NSA intercepted telegrams entering and leaving the United States under Operation Shamrock. U-2 aircraft began taking photographs over the USSR in 1956, primarily to locate Soviet ICBM launch sites. An American reconnaissance satellite of the Corona series succeeded for the first time in 1960 in bringing back to earth photos taken in space. Electromagnetic intelligence developed from the end of the 1960s with satellites, the first of which, Canyon 1, was launched in 1968 by the United States. In 1947, the intelligence services of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand signed the UKUSA agreement, under which the Echelon electromagnetic intelligence system was set up in the 1960s.

In the field of covert operations, the CIA's objective was most often to support the coming to power of a government favorable to U.S. policy. In the 1950s, the CIA succeeded in 1953 in overthrowing Mossadegh in Iran and installing Reza Pahlavi (in 1954 its operation PBSUCCESS succeeded in overthrowing the president of Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán; on the other hand, it failed in its attempt at a military coup in Indonesia in 1958. In the 1960s, the CIA intensified its actions against states whose governments the United States considered too close to the communists, including the Congo, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Bolivia, Brazil and Ghana. In the Congo, the CIA plotted in 1960 and 1961 to overthrow Patrice Lumumba, head of the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was assassinated.

In the area of propaganda, the Voice of America radio station began broadcasting regular programs to Russia from Munich, Manila and Honolulu in January 1947, which the Soviets tried to jam.

Peaceful coexistence between the two Great Ones

Eisenhower succeeded Truman as President of the United States in January 1953. Stalin's death in March 1953 raised hopes for change, which the struggle for power and the absence of any major external initiative by Soviets preoccupied with their domestic problems would sustain for over two years. Nikita Khrushchev, known as "Mr. K," gradually overcame the collegial leadership that had been in place since Stalin's death to become the new Soviet leader. The signing of the peace treaty on Austria in May 1955 was interpreted positively in the West. Then in 1956, he condemned Stalin's crimes, began the process of de-Stalinization and stated peaceful coexistence. At the same time, the USSR began to have nuclear weapons at the end of the 1950s, which posed a real threat to the United States, whose possession encouraged Khrushchev to pursue an offensive foreign policy in Europe and Cuba in particular and to adopt a strategic military posture based on nuclear war.

On the American side, in January 1957, Eisenhower promised economic and military aid to the states of the Middle East to counter Soviet influence and reaffirmed that the United States would respond militarily to any aggression. This policy, known as the Eisenhower Doctrine, was applied during the 1958 crisis in Lebanon, during which the Americans intervened with significant military resources.

Summits between U.S. and Soviet leaders resume after a ten-year hiatus. Khrushchev met with Eisenhower in 1955 in Geneva and in 1960 in France. The latter summit was cut short by the incident of the American U-2 spy plane shot down over Soviet soil.

John F. Kennedy won the American presidential elections in 1960. He favored peaceful coexistence with the USSR, but at the same time wanted to prevent communism from spreading to the Third World. The main lines of Kennedy's foreign policy doctrine were outlined in his inaugural address on January 20, 1961. He continued the policy of containment of his predecessors by assuring "that we will fight any enemy to ensure the survival and victory of freedom. But he also wanted "both sides, for the first time, to formulate serious and precise proposals concerning the inspection and control of nuclear weapons", and he announced the "Alliance for Progress", a program of economic aid to help Latin America and counter the influence of Cuba.

Kennedy and Khrushchev met in 1961 in Vienna without result. The Soviet leader pursued an offensive approach to peaceful coexistence that culminated in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. On the American side, the MacNamara doctrine of graduated response replaced the Dulles doctrine of massive retaliation. Kennedy engaged the United States on all fronts by increasing American aid to Congo-Kinshasa and by sending "military advisors" to Laos and Vietnam.

The conquest of space became a new field of competition between the two great powers, whose stakes far exceeded its scientific dimension. After the success of the Soviets who launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957, and then sent the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, in April 1961, the Americans had to reaffirm their scientific pre-eminence in the eyes of the world, and indirectly their ability to win the race for intercontinental ballistic missiles, which were on the way to becoming the main vector for nuclear weapons. Convinced that no other space project would be more impressive for humanity, Kennedy announced on May 25, 1961 the objective of sending an American to the Moon before the end of the decade. Equipped with considerable means, the Apollo program allows to reach this objective in July 1969. From 1965 onwards, the Soviet space programs experienced numerous setbacks: the crash of Luna 15 on the moon, launched at the same time as Apollo 11, symbolized the victory of the Americans, which did not fail to be exploited to illustrate the superiority of their model of society over the Russians.

Budapest Uprising (1956)

In Hungary, the ousting of the reformist leader Imre Nagy in April 1955 by someone close to the Stalinist Mátyás Rákosi caused a wave of agitation in student and intellectual circles. The following year, the denunciation of Stalin's crimes and the beginning of de-Stalinization led to upheavals in the Eastern bloc. In Poland, a popular protest movement leads to the return to power of Władysław Gomułka, a leader then considered more moderate. The Polish situation had repercussions on Hungary, which took a much more dramatic turn: on October 23, 1956, a spontaneous uprising set Budapest ablaze, an authentic mass movement provoked by the rejection of the Stalinist regime and by a desire to improve the social situation. Part of the army sided with the insurgents. The investigation conducted by the UN Special Committee on Hungary in 1957 concluded its report by saying that the "Hungarian uprising was not only national in character, but also spontaneous. The agitation of writers, students and journalists reflected a gradual emancipation from the one-party Hungarian Workers' Party and a disintegration of the totalitarian system. But the Hungarian uprising was quickly crushed by Soviet tanks in November 1956, without any real reaction from the Western bloc.

Rivalries in the Middle East and the Suez crisis (1953-1956)

The Middle East is the focus of rivalries between the two blocs linked to its geo-strategic position and its immense oil reserves, fueled by the Arab-Israeli conflict and the legacy of British and French colonialism.

The Suez crisis originated in the resurgence of Arab nationalism, embodied by Nasser, who took power in Egypt in 1954. He took a very hostile stance towards Israel and nationalized the Suez Canal in July 1956. The Soviet Union supported him, agreed to finance the construction of the Aswan Dam and began to supply arms to Egypt.

However, Eisenhower wished to pursue a policy of developing relations with the Arab states, after the signing of the Baghdad Pact, and intensified actions on the diplomatic front with all parties. However, the British and the French decided to take control of the canal by force and concluded a secret agreement with the Israelis on 24 October 1956. The Israelis invaded Egypt on October 29, followed by the British and French on October 31, without prior information from the United States. On November 5, the Soviet Union accused France and Britain of waging a colonial war and in barely veiled terms threatened the use of nuclear weapons. Without U.S. support, the three countries had no choice but to agree to a cease-fire on November 7 and a peaceful settlement under the auspices of the UN.

The Soviet Union benefited in two ways from this crisis: it allowed it to have a free hand at the same time to settle the Hungarian crisis on its own side, and it confirmed its status as the only great power facing the Americans. On the American side, Eisenhower was triumphantly re-elected on November 6, 1956, and emerged from the crisis with a strong personal image, which he used to pass his political vision for the Middle East, known as the Eisenhower Doctrine, to the American Congress in early 1957, in which the United States authorized itself to provide economic and military assistance if necessary to protect its interests.

Sino-Soviet breakup (1958-1962)

China judged the Soviet policy of peaceful coexistence to be too conciliatory towards the West and refused to join in the criticism of Stalin that Khrushchev publicly expressed. In 1958, Mao Zedong advocated the "permanent revolution" and launched the "great leap forward" that the Soviets considered dangerous. In 1959, the USSR stopped giving aid to China for the manufacture of an atomic bomb, and took India's side in the dispute with China over Tibet. The growing rift between Soviet realism and Chinese dogmatism was exposed at the 22nd Congress of the CPSU in October 1961. The crisis became even more acute in 1962 when sporadic border incidents between China and the USSR broke out.

Second Berlin Crisis (1958-1963)

In 1948-1949, a first crisis opened by the Soviet blockade of land access to West Berlin, to which the West responded with an airlift, ended with the maintenance of the four-party occupation status of Berlin resulting from the Potsdam Conference. Ten years later, the geopolitical context has changed significantly. The perpetuation of the FRG and the GDR, firmly anchored in the West and the East respectively, established a de facto partition of Germany. NATO and the Warsaw Pact faced each other with considerable conventional and nuclear forces.

The German question preoccupied Khrushchev for at least three reasons: the rise of the West German economy ("the German miracle") and its nuclear ambitions, the economic difficulties of the GDR despite its real development, and above all the massive immigration of East Germans to the West Germany. More than 2.7 million Germans, including many engineers, doctors and skilled workers, fled the GDR through Berlin between 1949 and 1961. The Soviet leadership, which provided substantial aid to the GDR, feared that the regime would eventually collapse, endangering the entire Eastern Bloc.

The crisis began on November 27, 1958, when Khrushchev sent a note to the West in which he proposed to abrogate the four-party status of the former capital of the Reich and to transform Berlin into a demilitarized "free city" with its own government. The Westerners responded to this note by rejecting his legal arguments outright and reaffirming their right to be in Berlin. Long diplomatic exchanges then began, the highlights of which were the summit meetings of the four powers in Paris in 1960 and in Vienna in 1961, which did not lead to any agreement. Khrushchev announced that he would sign a peace treaty with the GDR, which did not feel bound in any way by the Potsdam agreements. Kennedy raised the tone and announced on July 25, 1961, a significant increase in American military resources and the principles that constituted the red line that the Soviets should not cross: the right of presence and the right of access of Westerners to West Berlin, and the guarantee of the security and rights of the inhabitants of West Berlin.

Time was against Khrushchev, who had achieved nothing in two and a half years of negotiations. At the beginning of August, the decision was taken to close the border between the two parts of Berlin and between West Berlin and the GDR. During the night of 12-13 August 1961, the GDR armed forces cut off the road and rail links and began to build the Berlin Wall, one of the major symbols of the Cold War. Western reactions were limited to verbal protests. Kennedy confided shortly afterwards to one of his advisers that "the wall is not a very good solution, but it is a hell of a lot better than a war".

The Wall gradually became a more and more substantial structure, which led the West to believe that it was a lasting solution in the eyes of the GDR and the Soviet Union. However, the sporadic existence of restrictions on the freedom of movement of Westerners between the FRG and West Berlin maintained a certain amount of tension. And no formal agreement was reached with the Soviets. A new paroxysm of tension was suddenly reached in October 1962 with the outbreak of the Cuban missile crisis, of which Kennedy said "A Cuban crisis? No, a Berlin crisis!

Visiting Germany, Kennedy went to Berlin on June 26, 1963, where he gave a speech that became famous with the phrase "All free men, wherever they live, are citizens (...) of West Berlin, and for that reason, in my capacity as a free man, I say: Ich bin ein Berliner.

Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

East-West relations, already badly damaged by previous crises, were further aggravated by the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, during which the risk of a nuclear war was never so great.

In January 1959, Fidel Castro's guerrillas overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista, who was supported by the United States. The new regime took a series of measures that earned it growing hostility from Washington: the sharing of latifundia land and the properties of the American United Fruit Company in May 1959, the signing of a trade agreement with the Soviet Union in February 1960 after the reduction of Cuban sugar purchases by the United States, and the confiscation from March 1960 of American companies that controlled most of the Cuban economy. On May 8, 1960 Cuba re-established diplomatic relations with the USSR and in July 1960 Che Guevara announced that Cuba was now part of the "socialist camp".

In retaliation, the U.S. government put in place an economic embargo of the island in October 1960 and broke off diplomatic relations with Havana on January 2, 1961. At the same time, the CIA recruited "anti-Castro forces" among Cuban refugees. In early April, Kennedy agreed to a plan to invade the island, but refused to commit American troops. The April 17, 1961 landing in the Bay of Pigs turned into a disaster. On September 4, 1962, the country concluded a military assistance agreement with the Soviet Union and, a week later, Moscow declared that any attack on Cuba would provoke a nuclear response. On October 3, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution warning against any "subversive action in the Western Hemisphere.

On 14 October 1962, an American Lockheed U-2 aircraft photographed launch pads for medium-range nuclear missiles (IRBM and MRBM) on the island of Cuba, capable of reaching American territory. At the same time, the White House learned that 24 Soviet cargo ships carrying rockets and bombers were heading for Cuba (Operation Anadyr).

During the day of October 22, Kennedy, after having hesitated between inaction and the bombardment of the launching pads, decided in favor of the maritime blockade of the island, made possible by the superiority of the U.S. Navy in the Caribbean Sea. The advantage of this measured response was that it left Khrushchev the initiative to choose between escalation and negotiation. On October 24, the first Soviet cargo ships finally turned back. Without consulting Castro beforehand, on 26 October the Kremlin proposed the withdrawal of offensive weapons; in return, the Americans had to undertake not to overthrow the Cuban regime and to withdraw their nuclear missiles installed in Turkey which could reach Soviet territory. On 28 October, Kennedy accepted this compromise but asked, through his brother Robert Kennedy, to hide the fact that the United States was withdrawing its missiles from Turkey, of which Khrushchev was unaware that their dismantling had been decided before the crisis. Robert Kennedy's book Thirteen Days, published in 1968, revealed the deal. In 1977, in Robert Kennedy and his Times, Arthur Schlesinger declassified all the documents relating to the Dobrynine-Robert Kennedy negotiations.

Khrushchev's retreat humiliated him in the eyes of Castro, Mao Zedong and other communist leaders. Kennedy, on the other hand, saw his popularity and worldwide prestige soar. The outcome of the crisis was a political success for the United States, although it had to come to terms with the continued existence of a communist state within its defense perimeter. The lasting consequence of the crisis was that American and Soviet leaders abandoned "brinkmanship" and "nuclear bluffing" and gave priority to establishing a rational strategic dialogue between them.

Rapprochement between the United States and the Soviet Union

In the aftermath of the Cuban crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev wanted first of all to guard against the risk of a badly managed crisis degenerating into a nuclear war; to this end, a "red telephone" was installed in 1963 between the White House and the Kremlin. Beyond that, their priority objective was to control and limit the development of nuclear weapons and to establish stable East-West relations. The Sino-Soviet rupture was partly a consequence of this reorientation of the Kremlin's policy, which sacrificed the world revolution advocated by Beijing on the altar of peaceful coexistence. A first result was achieved with the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in August 1963. They could not go any further: Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963, provoking worldwide emotion, and Khrushchev, very weakened by the Cuban crisis, was dismissed in October 1964.

During the years 1964-1968, US-Soviet relations were marked by a desire for normalization and détente. At the same time, serious events, notably the Vietnam War, the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops, showed the limits of the relationship and an arms race began that lasted throughout the 1960s.

The new president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, wanted to pursue détente; however, he would definitely commit his country to the Vietnam War, which occupied a central place in an American diplomacy that did not have a grand design as Kennedy could have had. This commitment was the subject of a "bipartisan consensus" within the political class and enjoyed broad support in public opinion until 1967. Large American military resources were deployed in Vietnam, but North Vietnam was not invaded. The dialogue with Moscow was not broken and the threshold beyond which Moscow or Beijing could have risked direct intervention in the conflict was not crossed. Relations with the USSR were focused on the continuation of negotiations on nuclear arms control.

Leonid Brezhnev, who was to dominate the Soviet Union for 18 years, also wanted détente, while strengthening his country's power in order to be able to dialogue as equals with the United States. The USSR considerably increased its conventional and nuclear military forces during the 1960s and reached, at the cost of an effort that weighed on its economy and the standard of living of its population, a true strategic parity with the Americans. The Soviets did not abandon the revolutionary role of the USSR, but gave priority to the interests of the USSR over those of the world revolution, thus returning to Stalinist policy. The Communist leaders were still convinced at that time that capitalism was historically condemned and that the victory of Communism was inevitable in the long run. Its break with China confirmed in 1964 and its desire to dominate the communist world forced the USSR to show itself as the leader of the spread of communism in the world. At the same time, Moscow wanted to avoid any dangerous confrontation with Washington and a Sino-American rapprochement.

The arrival in January 1969 of Richard Nixon as President of the United States, supported by his very influential National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, opened an era of profound international upheaval. In Europe, the half-hearted détente of the beginning of the decade was greatly accelerated by the Ostpolitik led by West Germany (FRG), which responded to the need on the part of the Soviet Union and its satellite states to strengthen East-West trade in order to improve their economic and social situation. In Asia, Nixon undertook to put an end to the Vietnam War and established a dialogue with China. Taking advantage of converging interests, the two "adversaries-partners", the USSR and the United States, accentuated their diplomatic and strategic exchanges and a relationship of closeness was established between the two leaders, Brezhnev and Nixon, which had not been seen since the beginning of the Cold War.

Nixon and Kissinger led a Realpolitik par excellence that wanted to leave aside the ideological dimension of the Cold War and establish a stable geopolitical state of the world, no longer bipolar but penta-polar (United States, USSR, China, Japan and Europe). Nixon also had to deal with the deterioration of the country's financial situation resulting from the very high cost of the foreign policies pursued by his predecessors. He suspended the convertibility of the dollar and put an end to the system of fixed exchange rates of the Bretton Woods agreements. On the external front, he asked his allies in Asia to provide a much larger share of their own defense; known as the "Nixon Doctrine," this announcement caused concern in Europe, where questions were being raised about a possible U.S. disengagement from the continent's defense.

Nuclear Arms Control (1963-1972)

The United States and the Soviet Union sought to reduce the risks inherent in nuclear deterrence by first restricting the possession of nuclear weapons to the five UN Security Council powers and then capping the number of strategic nuclear weapons after dramatically increasing their numbers in the 1960s.

The treaty banning nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty, was signed on 5 August 1963 by the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. Coming less than a year after the Cuban missile crisis, this agreement was considered by Kennedy as a major success of his nuclear risk control policy. It entered into force on 10 October 1963, after ratification by the three original parties and other states. As of January 1, 1973, 106 states had joined. However, its scope was greatly reduced by the fact that the three nuclear powers were able to carry out underground tests and that neither France nor China had ratified it.

Implementing the resolution no 2222 of the General Assembly of the United Nations voted unanimously on December 19, 1966, the space treaty enters into force on October 10, 1967, after ratification by the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and other states. France ratified it in August 1970 and China in December 1983. This treaty imposes a total demilitarization of space.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), developed under the auspices of the UN Disarmament Commission in Geneva and signed on July 1, 1968 by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom, entered into force on March 5, 1970, after ratification by the three signatory states and more than 40 states. Under this treaty, the nuclear-weapon states undertook not to transfer nuclear weapons or technology to non-nuclear-weapon states. Both France and China acceded to this treaty in 1992, twenty-two years after its signature.

Signed by Nixon and Brezhnev in May 1972, the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) freezes for five years the number of offensive nuclear weapons, defined as the number of launch silos for land-based intercontinental missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched strategic sea-to-ground ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Signed the same day, the ABM Treaty limits the number of missile defense sites for each country to two. Highly symbolic of détente, these treaties are the first during the Cold War to limit the deployment of a category of weapons. Politically, they confirmed the strategic parity of the Soviet Union with the United States. Their military scope is weak because the number and power of nuclear warheads are not constrained and programmes to modernise nuclear arsenals are not frozen.

SALT I was an interim agreement that committed both sides to continue negotiations on reducing their strategic weapons. A new round of negotiations, known as SALT II, opened in November 1972.

"Relaxation" in Europe (1962-1975)

In each of the two blocs, pro-Soviet and pro-American, the two superpowers are contested. The Soviet model was challenged in Eastern Europe. In August 1968, Czechoslovakia was invaded by Warsaw Pact troops: the Prague Spring came to an abrupt end, and the 1968 Brezhnev Doctrine, which stipulated "limited sovereignty" for the Eastern Bloc countries, justified Moscow's intervention.

In the West, de Gaulle distanced himself from the United States and withdrew from the integrated command of NATO in 1966; France remained a member of the Atlantic Alliance but the headquarters of the military organization left the country. Another spectacular gesture illustrating de Gaulle's policy of national independence was the announcement by France and the People's Republic of China of the establishment of diplomatic relations on January 27, 1964. However, during major crises, such as Cuba or Berlin, France continued to stand together with its Western allies.

In 1969, Willy Brandt became chancellor of the FRG and initiated the "Ostpolitik", a policy of rapprochement and openness towards the East. Normalization between the FRG and the GDR took place in two stages: on September 3, 1971, with the signing of the quadripartite agreement on Berlin, and on December 21, 1972, with the signing of the basic treaty on mutual recognition.

In 1975, the Helsinki Final Act was signed by thirty-three European states, including the Soviet Union, as well as Canada and the United States. The Final Act embodied years of discussions on three major themes: security in Europe, cooperation between states, particularly in the economic sphere, the free movement of ideas and people, and respect for human rights. This Final Act was initially a great success for the USSR, which obtained recognition of the existing states in Europe, including the GDR, and the inviolability of the borders resulting from the Second World War. But the concessions made by the Kremlin in the area of human rights and the right of peoples to self-determination encouraged dissent in Eastern Europe and caused the first cracks in the Soviet empire.

China's emergence on the world stage

During the 1960s and 1970s, China gradually emerged on the world stage as a power in its own right. Its break with the USSR encouraged it to develop its ties with the West and to acquire nuclear weapons. In 1964, De Gaulle established normal diplomatic relations between France and China because in Asia "there is no peace and there is no conceivable war without its involvement. Without Russian help, Beijing managed to become a nuclear power by exploding an A-bomb in 1964 and an H-bomb in 1967.

The crisis is growing with Moscow, which Beijing accuses of betraying the world revolution and practicing a pseudo-communism, a simple variant of bourgeois socialism. It is also a question of China not being subservient to the USSR and, by adopting an "anti-revisionist" posture, of posing as the leader of communism in the world. With the exception of the Indonesian Communist Party - which was destroyed in 1965 - and the Communist Party of India (as for the Communist States, only Albania chose to align itself with Beijing to free itself from Soviet tutelage. The Sino-Soviet border conflict escalated with the Chinese territorial claims and reached a peak during the 1969 incidents. However, both Beijing and Moscow provided significant support to the North Vietnamese and other communist revolutionary movements in Southeast Asia. Until the end of the 1960s, the Vietnam War prevented any opening from Washington to Beijing.

The story accelerated in the early 1970s: the United States was bogged down in the Indochinese peninsula and was looking for ways to put pressure on the USSR; China was isolated and its relations with the USSR were at their lowest ebb; the USSR was unable to catch up with the United States. The realism of the American and Chinese leaders led to a spectacular rapprochement that culminated in Nixon's trip to China in February 1972. The diplomatic triangle thus established between Moscow, Beijing and Washington made it possible to make progress towards the generalized détente of international relations and the cessation of hostilities in Southeast Asia.

At the same time, in October 1971, the UN admitted People's China to the Security Council, where the Chinese seat had previously been held by Taiwan.

Conflicts in Asia, Africa and Latin America

The détente between the two great powers and in Europe does not extend to the whole planet. The wars in Southeast Asia concentrate the most resources of the two blocs and focus the most media attention. But the majority of the world's regions are the scene of conflicts peripheral to the Cold War or of an ethnic nature or resulting from regional issues, these three types of conflicts may intermingle.

The Vietnam War pitted North Vietnam and Việt Cộng against South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. The former are supported by the USSR and China, while the United States and some of its allies in the Pacific provide support to the South Vietnamese government. The U.S. military intervened directly in the conflict from 1964 following the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. More than 500,000 U.S. troops were committed to Vietnam at the height of the war in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But the growing unpopularity of the conflict, its human and financial cost, and the stalemate on the ground led Nixon and Kissinger to begin negotiations with North Vietnam, which resulted in the signing of a peace agreement in Paris in 1973 and the complete withdrawal of American forces. Without this support, the South Vietnamese regime was unable to resist the North Vietnamese offensives of late 1974.

All of former French Indochina becomes communist: in April 1975 the fall of Saigon, renamed Ho Chi Minh City, marks the definitive victory of the communist regime in Hanoi and the reunification of Vietnam under its control. At the same time, the Khmer Rouge were victorious in the civil war in Cambodia. In August 1975, the communist Pathet-Lao took power in Laos.

Indonesia, a major country in Southeast Asia, was an exception to the communist wave. For several years, the powerful Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) enjoyed an alliance with the nationalist government of President Soekarno, leading the Indonesian right to fear that it would seize power. In 1965, following an attempted coup by leftist soldiers, General Soeharto ousted Soekarno and led a bloody crackdown on the PKI with American approval. In a few months, the campaign of terror claimed about 500,000 victims, while many others were incarcerated in camps.

In the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict that began in 1948 was fuelled by the Cold War: the United States and most Western countries supported Israel, while the USSR supported the Arab countries. Considerable quantities of weapons were accumulated on both sides. Israel emerged victorious from the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. In both cases, the pressure exerted by the two great powers on their respective allies led to a rapid halt in the fighting and to peace negotiations, which were not successful. In addition, from 1962 to 1970, a civil war in North Yemen pitted the abolished Shiite monarchy, which was still supported by Saudi Arabia, against the new regime, which was dominated by the Sunnis and supported by Egypt.

In Africa, the Portuguese colonies wanted their independence. These last colonial wars broke out in Angola (1961-1975), Guinea-Bissau (1963-1974) and Mozambique (1964-1975). The Marxist independence fighters were supported by Cuba, which sent troops to the region, the USSR and China. Ethiopia has been plagued since 1961 by the Eritrean war of independence. The Biafran War in Nigeria, between 1967 and 1970, a civil war of ethnic origin, was born of the secession of a region in the southeast of the country that declared itself the Republic of Biafra. The major powers, with the exception of France, more or less actively supported the Nigerian government and did nothing to quickly put an end to the conflict, which degenerated into a huge humanitarian disaster. Despite an unprecedented humanitarian surge that highlighted the role of NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières, approximately one million Biafrans died from famine and war.

In Latin America, the United States was desperate to prevent countries from falling into the hands of communist movements. In 1965, it intervened militarily in the Dominican Republic to prevent the takeover by left-wing parties and remained in the country for 18 months until the civil war ended and a new government was elected. The United States supported the installation of military dictatorships, such as Pinochet's in Chile in 1973, which overthrew the legitimately elected leftist government of Salvador Allende. In Nicaragua, the United States supported the Somoza dictatorship against the Sandinista National Liberation Front. The Castro regime unsuccessfully supported revolutionary guerrillas, the most publicized example of which was Che Guevara's failed attempt at revolution in Bolivia, where he was killed in 1967.

In South Asia, the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan and the stakes of regional domination periodically escalate into open warfare. Following a first war in 1947-48 at the time of independence, a second Indo-Pakistani war broke out in 1965. Although neither state belonged to one of the two blocs, India, in conflict with China, found support from the USSR, while Pakistan benefited from that of the United States. The war lasted less than a month because the great powers agreed at the UN Security Council on a resolution demanding a halt to the fighting and a return to the ex ante borders. A third Indo-Pakistani war of ethnic origin took place in 1971 when India invaded East Pakistan to ensure the success of Bengali independence fighters who founded Bangladesh. Once again, diplomatic action by the Big Two and China helped prevent the conflict from degenerating into an all-out war between Pakistan and India.

The American failure in Vietnam and the economic crisis resulting from the oil crisis of 1973 considerably affected the Western world. The Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign in 1974: his successor, Gerald Ford, played only a transitional role while Congress adopted a clearly isolationist line. These events resulted in a weakening of the United States and a loss of influence in the world.

In the USSR, Brezhnev, in power since 1964, abandoned the policy of détente at the same time as his privileged interlocutors, Nixon, Brandt and Pompidou, disappeared from the political scene, and retreated to the traditional Soviet political line, which gave priority to the Red Army and did not hesitate to commit itself to the outside world in order to preserve or enlarge the Communist bloc, without making any concessions to the demands for an improvement in the standard of living and for an increase in individual freedom.

This double withdrawal of the two Great Ones opened a period often referred to as the "second cold war" or "fresh war".

Cooling of US-Soviet relations

During the 1970s, foreign policy in the West was dominated by the debate over the real intentions of the Soviets: did they sustain a realistic policy based on their national interests, or did they exploit détente for their own benefit and continue to promote the expansion of their communist ideology in the world and pose a threat? This debate was at the heart of Jimmy Carter's presidency, during which, in the United States as well as in Europe, leaders gradually rallied to the second option and adopted policies of firmness towards Moscow.

In the USSR, Brezhnev was very weakened by illness; from 1975 onwards, the army and conservatives, such as Andropov or Ustinov, took the ascendancy. Less aware of the economic difficulties than Kosygin, they abandoned the policy of détente and development of economic exchanges with the West in favor of strengthening the Soviet military potential and increasing support for communist movements in the world, especially in Africa. The decision taken in 1977 to deploy SS-20 missiles capable of striking anywhere in Europe was part of this logic. The German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, tried unsuccessfully to obtain from the Soviets a limit on the number of these missiles. The assurances he obtained from Brezhnev were not followed up. At the end of the 1970s, the Soviet leaders believed that they were in a strong position to conduct an offensive policy. In Europe, where their military position was stronger than ever, they hoped that disagreements between NATO members would paralyze them. In the Third World, they expect the United States, still traumatized and weakened by the Vietnam War, to be unwilling to engage in further interventions.

As soon as he was inaugurated in January 1977, Jimmy Carter intended to pursue an ambitious foreign policy, different from the purely realistic approach of Nixon and Kissinger, based on the promotion of democracy and human rights, and on the pursuit of détente with the USSR, with the aim, in particular, of reaching disarmament agreements, despite the tensions in the Third World. Based on the Helsinki agreements of the CSCE of August 1975, the United States pointed out the violations of human rights in the Soviet Union, seizing the opportunities provided by the arrests of dissidents Andrei Sakharov and Natan Sharansky and the restrictions placed on the emigration of Soviet citizens of the Jewish faith. The Soviets protested against what they saw as interference in their internal affairs and threatened to break off negotiations on disarmament. This was the first time since the beginning of the Cold War, an ideological conflict in essence, that the USSR was confronted with direct attacks on the legitimacy of its model.

Carter distanced himself from Kissinger's "linkage" policy by refusing to link progress on the SALT II negotiations to Soviet counterparts in the area of human rights or communist expansion in Africa. When Sharansky was convicted in July 1978, Carter ordered limited sanctions against the Soviet Union but refused to cut off trade relations between the two countries or halt the SALT negotiations to which he attached great importance. This priority led him to cancel the deployment of the B-1 strategic bomber or the neutron bomb, while increasing defence budgets that had been sharply reduced after the end of the Vietnam War. Carter also obtained commitments from NATO member countries to increase their defense spending. Carter's ambivalent policy opened the door to accusations of weakness and irresolution by his Republican opponents.

The SALT II negotiations dragged on but did not come to a halt, despite the clear opposition of a large part of Congress to Carter's stated ambition to sharply reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons and despite the Euromissile crisis triggered in 1977 by the USSR's decision to install SS-20 missiles in Eastern Europe. The announcement of the establishment of official diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level between China and the United States on January 1, 1979 delayed their conclusion for several months. An agreement was finally reached; signed in Vienna on 18 June 1979, the SALT II treaty prohibited the development of new types of strategic weapons, capped the number of single and multiple warhead launchers (MIRVs), and provided for reciprocal nuclear arms control. The treaty was submitted to the Senate on 22 June 1979 in a context of growing anti-Sovietism, exacerbated in September by an imbroglio in American domestic politics concerning Soviet troops stationed in Cuba. Carter gave up trying to get the treaty ratified. Nevertheless, the treaty survived the crisis in US-Soviet relations, insofar as the two great powers respected its terms throughout the 1980s, until the signing of the START I treaty in 1991.

Relations between the two "Great Ones" deteriorated abruptly with the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet troops in December 1979, which caught the American administration unawares, as it had been grappling with the hostage crisis at its embassy in Tehran a few weeks earlier. Through this intervention, which it had hesitated to launch for a long time, Moscow sought to save the communist regime in power in Kabul since April 1978, whose reforms were uniting the country's traditionalist forces against it and which was facing numerous armed groups of Sunni and Shiite mujahideen. The United States has provided some of these movements with limited assistance since July 1979, excluding the delivery of arms.

Carter then decided to follow the firm political line towards the USSR advocated by Brzeziński, too late in the eyes of a majority of public opinion, which accused him of naivety and failure to anticipate the Soviet intervention. In the days that followed, Carter warned Moscow against any intervention in the Persian Gulf that would be considered a threat to the vital interests of the United States, and strengthened American military resources in this region. The U.S. Administration also decided on an embargo on grain shipments to the Soviet Union and a boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. These and other measures were solemnly presented by the President during his State of the Union address on January 23, 1980. In addition, Carter significantly expanded U.S. support for the Mujahideen through Pakistan; dubbed Operation Cyclone, this covert action was co-financed by Saudi Arabia. Détente was buried for several years.

Discredited by the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and weakened by the American hostage crisis in Iran, Carter was defeated in the elections by Ronald Reagan. During Reagan's two presidential terms (1981-1989), conservative values were revived, as was puritanical morality. In economics, Reagan followed a liberal program inspired in particular by the Chicago School (Milton Friedman's monetarism), tempered by a considerable increase in public deficits.

In foreign policy Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" at the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983, and wanted to give the United States the military means to "defend freedom and democracy. The hardening of U.S.-Soviet relations took a dramatic turn in 1983 when, on August 31, 1983, the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007. Washington accused Moscow of having savagely shot down a stray airliner without warning, while Moscow retorted that Washington had knowingly used a civilian plane to test Soviet defences without risk. At the beginning of November 1983, the Western allies had to interrupt their Able Archer 83 manoeuvres, which caused the Soviet nuclear forces to go on alert. Direct and indirect interventions increased around the world: the Argentinean junta took over Operation Charly throughout Latin America, aiding the Contras against Nicaragua in 1981-1986 (leading to Irangate) and invading Grenada in 1983.

The 1972 ABM Treaty considerably restricted the deployment of missile defence systems. However, scientific progress in the 1980s made it possible to envisage the use of new defence techniques against opposing missiles, which were supposedly much more effective. On 23 March 1983, Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), which was immediately dubbed "Star Wars" by the media. Its objective was to deploy an anti-missile shield capable of intercepting Soviet intercontinental missiles (ICBMs). This announcement provoked a lively controversy with the USSR concerning its compatibility with the ABM Treaty. The feasibility and cost of this programme gave rise to debate in the United States, but it constituted a political lever of primary importance in the START strategic negotiations with the USSR, which aimed to reduce nuclear arsenals, without eliminating the notion of nuclear deterrence, since it was in any case unthinkable to protect American and Soviet territories entirely from nuclear weapons. The SDI experienced serious technical and financial difficulties from 1986 onwards. However, it was one of the elements at the heart of the negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev during the summits that brought them together from 1986 onwards. However, it is difficult to evaluate with certainty the role it played in the weakening of Soviet power that led to the end of the Cold War.

Weakening of the American-Soviet duopoly against a background of economic crisis

In Latin America, the 1970s were marked by great political instability, numerous coups d'état and strong activity by communist guerrillas supported by Cuba. U.S. support for military dictatorships such as those in Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina declined as a result of Carter's desire to promote respect for human rights. In July 1979, the popular Sandinista revolution, led by the FSLN, overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua. The election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States resulted in a clear return to a policy of military and economic aid to anti-communist regimes and movements, whether repressive or not. But the 1970s marked the end of the pax americana in the Western hemisphere.

The Soviet Union also faced difficulties within its own bloc. The signing of the Helsinki Final Act on 1 August 1975 at the end of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) initially appeared to be a success for Soviet diplomacy. But the text re-mobilized the population and intellectuals in their demands for respect of individual freedoms and the resolution of economic problems.

In Poland, the KOR (Committee for the Defense of Workers) was created in September 1976 by intellectuals, followed in March 1977 by the foundation of the ROPCiO (Committee for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights), nationalist, anti-Soviet and pro-Western movements. On October 16, 1978, the Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected pope under the name of John Paul II. Involved on the international scene, he will actively fight against communism. On August 31, 1980, the shipyard worker Lech Wałęsa, co-created the Solidarność trade union, the first free trade union independent of the Communist Party in the People's Democracies. Faced with the deteriorating situation, the Polish Communist regime reacted by placing General Wojciech Jaruzelski at the head of the government, who established a state of emergency in December 1981.

In Czechoslovakia, a group of intellectuals, including Václav Havel, published Charter 77 in January 1977, denouncing the government's human rights violations.

Expansionism of the USSR

Taking advantage of the relative decline of the United States and the rather pacifist policy of President Carter at the beginning of his term, the Soviet Union became more involved in Asia and Africa, causing growing tensions between the two great powers.

In Africa, communist guerrillas took power after 1975 in the newly independent countries of the former Portuguese colonial empire (Angola, Mozambique...) and began military actions in the direction of South Africa with the support of the Cuban army, which led to real pitched battles, particularly in Namibia. In Ethiopia, the Soviet army and Cuban forces intervened against the movements fighting against the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam from 1976. Destabilizing actions were sometimes thwarted, such as the rescue of Kolwezi by the French army.

In 1978, the communists seized power in Afghanistan following the assassination of President Daoud Khan, who had himself deposed King Zaher Shah in 1973. The new regime was soon faced with a popular revolt. On July 3, 1979, Carter signed the authorization setting up the Afghan program of military and financial aid to the Afghan Mujahideen, hoping thus, on the advice of Brzezinski, to provoke the USSR to invade Afghanistan. On December 27, 1979, Moscow sent its army, inaugurating the first war in Afghanistan. The United States got involved in this conflict by feeding the anti-Soviet resistance on the spot with the help of the People's Republic of China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the intelligence services of several Western European countries, by financing and offering military training to groups of mujahideen fighting against the Soviet occupier, among them future Islamist terrorists. The armies of the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan in February 1989.

Arms race

After the Soviet Union began deploying SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) in Eastern Europe in early 1977, NATO responded in December 1979 with its "dual decision. This provided for the gradual installation of BGM-109G cruise missiles and Pershing II intermediate-range ballistic missiles to counterbalance Soviet SS-20 missiles on the territory of five NATO member countries, while at the same time initiating negotiations with the Soviet Union to eliminate these weapons. Negotiations opened in Geneva between the two powers.

Large peaceful demonstrations, supported by the communist parties, took place in the countries concerned, particularly in Germany. Speaking in the Bundestag before German deputies on January 20, 1983, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, François Mitterrand confirmed France's total support for the "double decision" of 1979. The slogan "rather red than dead" ((de) Lieber rot als tot) inspired Mitterrand, during a visit to Belgium on October 13, 1983, the formula "pacifism is in the West, and the Euromissiles are in the East, this is an unequal relationship.

Despite the pressure, the deployment of NATO missiles began in November 1983. In response, the USSR broke off the Geneva negotiations and dialogue with the United States until Gorbachev came to power in 1985. Negotiations between the two powers resumed in November 1985 and resulted in the signing in Washington on 7 December 1987 of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated from their arsenals intermediate-range (1,000 to 5,500 km) and shorter-range (500 to 1,000 km) ground-launched nuclear missiles.

This arms race is generally considered to be one of the factors that caused the collapse of the Soviet system at the end of the 1980s, which was unable to keep pace with the technological innovations of the West and to offer its people a satisfactory standard of living.

At such levels of military spending, strategic parity between the two Great Ones is preserved, with each retaining the means of mutually assured destruction, that is, the ability to destroy the adversary even after suffering a massive first strike.

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union exported arms on a massive scale to all continents to accompany its political expansionism, especially in the Middle East and Africa. Over the period 1976-1980, the Soviet Union's arms exports ($32.9 billion in 1979) represented four times the amount of economic aid it granted to third countries ($7.7 billion in 1979). The main recipient countries are Iraq, Syria and Yemen in the Middle East, Libya, Ethiopia and Algeria in Africa, Cuba and Peru in Latin America.

The United States' arms exports were far outstripped by those of the Soviet Union from the mid-1970s. However, the arms trade of NATO countries remains larger than that of the Warsaw Pact countries, but to a lesser extent than in the period 1971-1975. The four main U.S. customers outside NATO were Iran until the fall of the Shah in January 1979, Israel, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

The Olympic Games, arenas of East-West competition

During the Cold War, the East-West rivalry is also expressed in sports competitions and more particularly during the Olympic Games, Washington and Moscow hoping to prove the superiority of their system of society by the brilliant results of their athletes. In spite of the apolitical ideals posted by the Olympic Charter, the Olympic Games are a tool of propaganda during all the cold war. Their political use culminates in 1980 when the Western States boycott the Olympic Games of Moscow in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviets boycott the Olympic Games of Los Angeles, in spite of the big importance that they attach since their return in 1952 to the Olympic competitions to get a number record of medals and to mediatize their sporting heroes. For its second participation in the Games of Melbourne in 1956, the USSR occupies the first place with thirty-seven gold medals against thirty-two in the United States, classification which remains identical for the following Olympiads. Since 1968, the competition is also played between the two German States, with the advantage of the GDR, and all the States of Eastern Europe also record spectacular results; the sport is in the East a system of State in which considerable means are invested and which contributes greatly to the external image of the communist regimes. The United States also uses the Games for propaganda purposes. The Olympic Committee of the United States appears on the list of the organizations to be used for propaganda purposes managed by the United States Information Agency which aims at creating a favorable collective imaginary by being based partly on the sport and on the Olympism.

The USSR was faced with the aging of its leadership team. Leonid Brezhnev died in November 1982, quickly followed by his successors Yuri Andropov (February 1984) and Konstantin Chernenko (March 1985). On March 11, 1985, the arrival in power of Mikhail Gorbachev, 54 years old, marked a change of generation. The new leader launched the policies of glasnost (transparency) and perestroika (restructuring) soon after.

The "new détente" sought by Gorbachev originated in the need for the new reformist leadership in Moscow in 1985 to put an end to the race for world supremacy with the United States and to benefit from Western assistance in the recovery of the Soviet economy. It takes the form of the resumption of a nourished dialogue with the West and the multiplication of meetings between Gorbachev and the Western leaders. It took the form of the signing of disarmament agreements, the end of several conflicts on the periphery of the Western and Eastern blocs, and above all the lifting of the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Berlin Wall, which paved the way for the definitive resolution of the German question, which had remained unresolved since the end of the Second World War and the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. This era of peaceful relations between West and East, symbolically saluted by the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Gorbachev in 1990, found an unexpected epilogue in the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, which signified the end of the bipolar world that had dominated world geopolitics since 1945 and the advent of a unipolar world dominated by the United States during the last decade of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.

New détente and nuclear and conventional disarmament agreements

Gorbachev's calls for disarmament to free the world of nuclear and other weapons by the end of the century are increasing. Three arms reduction treaties were signed between 1987 and 1991, dealing respectively with intermediate-range nuclear weapons (INF), conventional weapons (CFE) and strategic nuclear weapons (START).

The first official meeting between Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan took place at the Geneva summit in November 1985; although no specific agreement was reached, this summit marked the resumption of dialogue between the two powers and the beginning of a new détente. The two leaders agreed to increase contacts at all levels and to accelerate negotiations on nuclear and space weapons, while emphasizing that serious differences separated them. The second summit took place in Reykjavik where Reagan and Gorbachev met on October 11 and 12, 1986. An agreement was not reached on a drastic reduction of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, prevented only by Reagan's refusal to give up the continuation of the IDS program. The summit was also marred by Gorbachev's new determination - as a counterpart to the major military concessions imposed on the hardliners of the CPSU - since coming to power (immediate responses to the British expulsions of Soviet diplomats in September 1985, and to the French and Italian expulsions in February 1986) to no longer leave unanswered the rebuffs and accusations of espionage. In early September 1986, the FBI arrested a Soviet scientist, Zakharov, in the United States, who was caught in the act of spying. The next day, the KGB trapped and arrested an American journalist, Danilov, for espionage, presenting him as an anti-Soviet émigré. Ronald Reagan had to negotiate his release. Cross expulsions of diplomats will follow the summit of Reykjavík and Gorbachev will make withdraw its personnel of service of the American embassies and consulates. Gorbachev evokes the "common European house", denuclearized and neutralized.

However, these exchanges took shape on 8 December 1987 in Washington when Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), which provided for the elimination of short- and medium-range nuclear missiles from European soil within three years. This agreement put an end to the Euromissile crisis.

In parallel, the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact member states launched an appeal on 11 June 1986 for the adoption of a "programme for the reduction of conventional forces in Europe", to which NATO responded positively in the Brussels Declaration of 11 December 1986. Preliminary consultations between the member states of the two military alliances led to the definition of a negotiating mandate on 2 February 1989. On 19 November 1990, on the margins of the Paris summit for the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the member states of NATO and the Warsaw Pact signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), the implementation of which would result in a substantial reduction in military equipment and personnel. Without waiting for the results of these negotiations, Gorbachev announced unilateral reductions in Soviet armed forces in December 1988.

With George H. W. Bush, who succeeded Reagan in January 1989, the frequency of US-Soviet summits increased further. The Malta summit, on December 2 and 3, 1989, took place a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall. While some observers wanted to declare this summit as the end of the Cold War, Bush remained cautious, saying that the very positive exchanges he had allowed for a good mutual understanding of the respective positions and were "an important step in trying to break down all the barriers still in place because of the Cold War," but he did not go so far as to declare the Cold War over or to say that the two countries were now allies. Exchanges continued in 1990 and 1991 on political issues, especially concerning the reunification of Germany, military, and economic. Gorbachev was invited to the G7 meeting in London in July 1991.

End of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and fall of the Berlin Wall

On December 7, 1988, at the UN, Gorbachev announced the reduction of Soviet armed forces in the GDR, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and stated that "force and the threat of force cannot and must not be instruments of foreign policy" and that "freedom of choice is a universal principle. It opens the way to the emancipation of the countries of Eastern Europe from Soviet tutelage under the pressure of popular demonstrations that lead in 1989 to the fall of communist regimes in all countries of Eastern Europe. In the Socialist Republic of Romania, the autocratic regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu was the last to fall, on December 26, 1989. The end of the "people's democracies" is followed by the holding of free elections and the establishment of new institutions and economic reforms on the Western model.

The resumption of the mass flight of GDR inhabitants played a key role in destabilizing the East Berlin regime. In the summer of 1989, people from the GDR began to migrate to the FRG through Hungary, which opened its border with Austria. The movement gained momentum, and the East German government was overwhelmed, deciding on November 9 to allow its citizens to travel freely to West Germany. The news spread like wildfire through the West Berlin media, leading to a spontaneous mobilization of East Berliners who forced the opening of the Berlin Wall's border crossings without violence and poured into West Berlin by the thousands on the night of November 9, 1989. The fall of the Berlin Wall initiated the political process that led to the reunification of Germany less than a year later, on October 3, 1990.

On February 25, 1991, the foreign and defense ministers of the member states of the Warsaw Pact, the defense alliance of Eastern European countries created in 1955, declared the cessation of its military activities. Then, on July 1, 1991, the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved.

On June 28, 1991, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon), the economic alliance of Eastern European countries created in 1949, was officially dissolved.

Resolution of conflicts peripheral to the Cold War

The resumption of a constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington favors the resolution of conflicts created or at least maintained by the tensions of the years 1975 to 1985.

One of Gorbachev's priorities was to put an end to the USSR's military involvement in Afghanistan, which he announced publicly on 8 February 1988. Relying on the dynamics created by his policy of détente, he obtained the signature of the Geneva agreement of 14 April 1988 concerning the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, which ended in February 1989.

The war between Iran and Iraq has been going on since 1980, with no side seemingly able to win. From the beginning of the conflict, the UN Security Council voted unanimously for resolutions calling for a cease-fire, without any effect on the ground. The new climate of détente between East and West made it possible to obtain, in 1987, a real agreement between the permanent members of the Council to effectively support a relaunch of the UN mediation efforts. The considerable human and financial cost of the conflict for the two belligerents also led them to finally accept, in August 1988, a cease-fire under the aegis of the UN. It also showed Gorbachev the extent of his new thinking. His role was such that, in a unique case in the world, the Soviet Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, went to Qom in March 1989 to meet Ayatollah Khomeini. The latter described the minister as "Gorbachev's messenger". It is true that the destruction of an Iranian Airbus on July 4, 1988, by an American aircraft carrier, causing the death of 290 people, exacerbated anti-American sentiment in Iran.

Since 1975, Cuba has been the armed wing of the Soviet Union's support for the MPLA, opposed to the movements supported by South Africa and the United States in the long civil war in Angola. On December 22, 1988, Angola, Cuba and South Africa signed an agreement in New York, under the aegis of the Soviets and the Americans, leading to the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. In exchange, the South Africans withdrew from South West Africa, which became independent under the name of Namibia. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela was released on February 12, 1990 and apartheid was abolished in 1991.

In Latin America, supported until then by the United States as part of its policy of containing communism, the dictatorships fell in Paraguay and Chile in 1989. In Nicaragua, the civil war between the Cuban-backed Sandinistas and the U.S.-backed contras ended in 1990 with the holding of free elections.

Implosion of the Soviet Union

Mikhail Gorbachev and his reformist allies struggled to impose their new policies of glasnost ("transparency") and perestroika ("restructuring") on the conservatives and the party bureaucracy. The democratic reforms that were initiated did not succeed in turning around the country's economy and led, between 1985 and 1990, to a gradual weakening of central Soviet power and a questioning of the leadership role of the single party, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The fifteen Soviet socialist republics that make up the USSR embark from 1989 on the road to independence, condemning it to disappear in December 1991.

Incorporated by force into the USSR in 1940 as a result of the German-Soviet pact, the three Baltic SSRs were the first to assert their sovereignty and then their independence from the central Soviet power. On November 16, 1988, the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR published a declaration of sovereignty, followed by similar declarations by Lithuania on May 18, 1989, and Latvia on July 28, 1989. These declarations asserted the supremacy of the laws of these republics over Soviet laws and began the process leading to their independence. On March 11, 1990, the Lithuanian government took the initiative to promulgate the Act on the Reestablishment of an Independent Lithuanian State. Moscow declared it illegal. The other two Baltic states, Estonia and Latvia, declared their independence in March and May 1990 respectively, but were also refused by the central authorities. Moscow eventually sent in the Red Army to restore the situation. After violent clashes in January 1991, Gorbachev backed down and withdrew his troops.

On June 12, 1990, the newly elected Congress of People's Deputies of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin, adopted a declaration on state sovereignty of the Russian republic.

The Soviet central power finally lost control of the situation after Boris Yeltsin was elected president of the RSFSR by universal suffrage on 12 June 1991. He had the Russian Supreme Soviet adopt a text proclaiming the superiority of Russian laws over Soviet laws and resigned from the CPSU, which was banned in the army and in state organizations. The RSFSR, a pillar of the USSR, was considerably detached from the authority of the Kremlin.

Gorbachev's power was further weakened by the Moscow putsch of August 19, 1991, instigated by conservatives, which failed due to the action of Yeltsin, whose prestige was considerably enhanced. With the failure of the putsch, the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union granted broad powers to the republics, with the "center" retaining only control over foreign and military policy. But the republics are increasingly reluctant to accept a limitation of their sovereignty and leave the Soviet Union one after another, between August and December 1991. From then on, the break-up of the USSR was inevitable.

On December 8, 1991, the presidents of Belarus, Ukraine and the RSFSR, noting that "the USSR no longer exists," signed the Minsk agreement creating the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), open to all USSR member states. On December 21, 1991, at a meeting in Alma-Ata with the same three presidents, the presidents of eight other former Soviet republics, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and the five Central Asian republics, joined the new Community and signed a set of declarations and political and military agreements with them. The Baltic Republics and Georgia do not join the CIS. The Russian Federation, led by Boris Yeltsin, succeeded the USSR in law and inherited its seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev, head of a state that no longer exists, resigns from the presidency of the USSR.

The Cold War came to an end in stages between 1989 and 1991, as a result of the explosion of the Eastern bloc and the break-up of the Soviet Union. This epilogue translates into the end of the bipolar world that had dominated international relations since 1945 and its replacement, for the last decade of the 20th century, by a unipolar world largely dominated by the United States, the only superpower.

The end of the Cold War changed the geopolitical landscape of Europe, established the Western political and economic model as an undisputed reference in almost the entire world, and gave the West control over the security and defense architecture in Europe. NATO, expanded to include the former People's Democracies, became the main international military alliance. At the same time, Russia succeeded the Soviet Union in terms of international law and possession of nuclear weapons and experienced a decade of relative fading.

In the 2000s, however, Russia returned to an ambitious and interventionist foreign policy, such as in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014, often characterized as the new Cold War, although the driving force was primarily geostrategic, the ideological dimension was not very present, and the intensity of tensions was not comparable to that of the great crises of the Cold War, such as Berlin or Cuba.

Paradoxically, this decrease in tensions does not reduce the risk of nuclear war according to the Doomsday Clock Committee, which reported in January 2019 that the world is closer to nuclear war than during the worst moments of the Cold War.

Shift in the geopolitical landscape of Europe

The main political issue to be dealt with was the reunification of Germany, which Chancellor Kohl wanted to carry out very quickly, but which aroused reluctance in the United Kingdom and France, and which presupposed the agreement of the Soviets, in particular on the question of Germany's participation in NATO and the fate of the 380,000 Soviet soldiers stationed on the territory of the GDR.

As soon as the Wall opened, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl proposed a plan for the country's reunification on November 28, 1989, and decided to carry it out as quickly as possible. At the meeting between Gorbachev and Kohl in July 1990, the Soviet president agreed to allow the reunified Germany to join NATO in exchange for financial aid. The reunification of Germany was official on October 3, 1990. In addition, Germany recognized the definitive nature of the Oder-Neisse border by signing the German-Polish border treaty with Poland on November 14, 1990. Germany regained its full sovereignty when the last Russian troops left Berlin on June 11, 1994.

The death of Tito in 1980 led to a weakening of central power in Yugoslavia and the rise of nationalism throughout the following decade. The party in power, the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, structured in regional branches, was swept away in 1990 by the wave of protest that affected all of Central and Eastern Europe. The free elections organized in the spring of 1990 in the six republics brought to power nationalist and independence parties in Croatia and Slovenia, which declared their independence on June 25, 1991.

The wars that broke out between Serbia and these two states created an unprecedented situation during the Cold War: for the first time since 1945, a conflict broke out in Europe between states asserting their sovereignty, which posed complex questions for the EEC, Russia and the United States about the formation of new states, the right to self-determination and minority rights.

The deepening of Europe is closely linked to the end of the Cold War in that it is seen by France, in agreement with Germany, as the key means to reinforce the new détente resulting from Gorbachev's policy and to make Western Europe the core of reference for a reunified Europe. The European Council of December 8 and 9, 1989, in Strasbourg, ended with a decisive double agreement for the future of Europe, concerning both the realization of the Economic and Monetary Union and the settlement of the German question.

At the European Council of 28 April 1990 in Dublin, the Twelve agreed to move forward in parallel towards economic and monetary union and political union, with a view to the enlargement of Europe towards the East. The Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union, was signed in February 1992.

New security and defense architecture in Europe

During the Cold War, Europe's security architecture was dominated by NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The end of the Cold War established a new European security architecture based on three main dimensions: the transatlantic dimension via NATO, the Western European dimension with the European Community on its way to becoming the European Union, and the pan-European dimension with the CSCE.

The United States and the Europeans wanted NATO to remain the pillar of security in Europe within an Atlantic vision. George H. W. Bush met twice with François Mitterrand to outline the details. The NATO summit in London in July 1990 decided on the broad lines of NATO's transformation and invited the Warsaw Pact member states to establish regular diplomatic links with NATO. The North Atlantic Cooperation Council was established on 20 December 1991 by NATO: a body for consultation between NATO and the East, it initially welcomed the former member states of the Pact and the three Baltic states, and then in April 1992, the former Soviet republics that were members of the CIS.

One of the three constituent pillars of the European Union created by the Maastricht Treaty is a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) which "shall include all questions relating to the security of the European Union, including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence.

At the same time as it decided not to dissolve itself like the Warsaw Pact, but to reinvent itself in order to adapt to the disappearance of the Soviet threat, the Atlantic Alliance took note of the fact that "the evolution of the European Community towards political union, and in particular towards the affirmation of a European identity in the field of security, will also contribute to the strengthening of Atlantic solidarity and to the establishment of a just and lasting peaceful order throughout Europe.

Since 1973, the CSCE has been a major centre of diplomatic activity on security and defence issues in Europe. The second CSCE summit, after the Helsinki Summit in 1975, was held in Paris from 19 to 21 November 1990. The CSCE was the only institution that brought together states from the West and the East at its founding, and was naturally the legitimate forum for attempting to establish a new, stable security architecture in a Europe that was in the process of restructuring. To this end, the Summit adopted the Charter of Paris for a New Europe and established the first permanent CSCE institutions.

Russia, the successor state of the Soviet Union

The Alma-Ata agreements signed by the eleven former Soviet republics created the CIS and established Russia as the successor state of the Soviet Union in terms of international law and possession of nuclear weapons. As such, it inherited the USSR's permanent seat on the UN Security Council. However, it is only partially associated by the West with the definition of the new stable and peaceful world order that George H. W. Bush is calling for.

The START Treaty of July 1991 was signed by the USSR. At the time of its dissolution at the end of 1991, three of the new states that emerged from the USSR had strategic nuclear weapons on their soil: Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. After the establishment of a common framework laying the legal foundations for the denuclearization of the former Soviet Union within the CIS (the Alma Ata agreement of 21 December 1991 and the Minsk agreement of 30 December 1991), an agreement, known as the Lisbon Protocol, was concluded on 23 May 1992 between these three new republics and the depositaries of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia. This agreement stipulates that Russia is the only state authorized to hold strategic nuclear weapons on the territory of the former USSR and that the other three states will dismantle theirs, thus avoiding any proliferation.

New world order and reality of the "partnership" with Russia?

For George H. W. Bush, the end of the Cold War opens the door to a new stable and peaceful world order. Most American political leaders believe that the United States won the Cold War, considering that the fall of the communist regime is primarily the consequence of the economic and technological superiority of the United States and the firm policy pursued by the Republican administration of Ronald Reagan, starting in 1981, which dragged the USSR into a competition that it could not sustain. On the Russian side, this analysis will be challenged later by Vladimir Putin, for whom the collapse of the Soviet ideology and system does not mean that Russia has been defeated, and for whom the fact that a new world order has not been established in a cooperative manner among all the powers maintains instability and competition among global and regional powers.

In the 1990s, the United States' undivided domination of Russia was reflected in a policy of cooperation to promote the success of Yeltsin's liberal reforms, but not in a policy of equal partnership that would have given Russia a place in world geopolitics commensurate with its role in history. At the end of the Cold War, Yeltsin's Russia was so weak that it could not oppose the foreign policy of the United States, which imposed the maintenance of the Western political and security system - based above all on NATO - and which decided to extend it to the East a few years later. However, there were many exchanges with Boris Yeltsin, who met Bush and then Clinton on numerous occasions.

But Russia is neither a member of NATO nor of the European Union, and does not have a strong pan-European organization where it would have as important a role as France or Germany. This strategic choice of the United States, supported by the Europeans at the time, will favour the emergence of the Russian nationalist policy and the regaining of international influence led by Vladimir Putin at the beginning of the 21st century.

Culture is at the forefront of the competition between East and West. The cultural cold war is shaped by the primacy of ideology, the shared and bitterly contested heritage of the "great" culture of the Enlightenment, the development of old and new media (press, cinema, radio, television) and by the proliferation of cultural venues, theaters, concert halls and the like, especially in the USSR.

Europe is the main playing field in the struggle for cultural influence between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Americans directed their cultural offensive, not so much towards the USSR, which was difficult to penetrate, as towards Western Europe, where the Communist parties were powerful and Marxist ideas were widely spread. Symmetrically, the Soviets devoted significant resources to culture and mass education in the USSR and Eastern Europe, in order to consolidate a fragile popular support. At the same time, they promoted in the West the superiority of their culture and their talented artists. The fall of the communist system was due to its economic and technological bankruptcy, but also to its failure to convince the citizens of Eastern and Western Europe of its societal, cultural and moral superiority.

Political issues

The Cold War is first and foremost a confrontation between two ideologies of universal scope in the eyes of their respective promoters. They are embodied in two opposing state and economic systems, and they are also the bearers of two radically different visions of the world and of society, even if they have in common, officially at least, values, a cultural base and objectives of progress. Culture conveys ideas, dreams, customs, traditions and beliefs from one generation to another, from one continent to another, from one group of people to another. It is therefore for each side the means to reach individuals to obtain their adhesion to a model of society. The Cold War is at the origin of new ways to spread and sell ideas and values. Soviet and American policy makers believe that to "win the minds of men" in Europe, they must appeal more to their cultural identity.

Both the Soviet Union and the United States used culture and information to support their policies, demonstrate the superiority of their model of society, and weaken the rival great power and its client states on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The Soviets put forward ideas such as the defense of peace, while the Americans wanted to embody the defense of the free world.

The ideological divide, both political and cultural, also existed within Western and Communist society. In Western Europe, the debate of ideas between supporters and opponents of Marxism was in full swing during most of the Cold War. On the other side of the Iron Curtain, the Soviets were patriotic and anti-American in terms of international relations, but in terms of everyday life and popular culture, the younger generations were less steeped in communist stereotypes and looked positively on the American way of life.

The two sides share a common cultural base, despite the gap between the two political systems. Both claim to operate in the world in the name of freedom and peace, guaranteeing in their constitutions or laws freedom of expression, ethnic and gender equality. Both invest in education and cultural facilities and champion progress. In the East as in the West, the "great" classical culture is supported by public administrations with the aim that national artists shine in international competitions such as the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, or during the tours of dance companies or symphony orchestras whose successes are widely reported in the media. East-West competition is most often implicit and masked by the polite discourse that accompanies cultural events. The reality of the competition sometimes surfaced when, for example, the Soviet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defected or the jazzman Louis Armstrong refused to be used by the American authorities.

The irruption of politics in the world of culture has perverse effects. To varying degrees, freedom of expression and artistic freedom were hindered on both sides. In the United States, the Red Scare and anti-communism deprived artists, especially in the cinema, of the possibility to work as they wished. In the Soviet Union, the state was omnipresent in order to give the widest possible access to culture, but also to control its content. The communist parties in Western Europe relayed the cultural messages of the Soviet "big brother".

The Soviet state favored classical-realist aesthetics in literature and art, and claimed to be the true continuator of "great" culture. This positioning goes hand in hand with a strong hostility towards the modernist avant-garde, described as "decadent" and what Lenin mockingly called "isms": futurism, surrealism, impressionism, constructivism. The control of the authorities does not only concern the form: the culture must be human, overflowing of fraternity and optimism. Works of pure propaganda abound, extolling the virtues and progress of Soviet society. The censorship exercised on the form as well as on the substance, and the close control of the most brilliant Soviet artists, such as composers Igor Stravinsky and Dmitri Shostakovich, writers Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold and Mikhail Zoshchenko, the painters Kasimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko and Vladimir Tatlin, and the filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, finally prevented the Soviet Union from becoming, during the second half of the twentieth century, the country of culture, recognized throughout the world, that it aspired to be.

During the early years of the Cold War, Americans approached cultural issues cautiously. They were reluctant to promote classical culture, especially German culture, despite the admiration it enjoyed in the United States, for fear of echoing the Nazi propaganda that had exploited it extensively and of encouraging German nationalism. The propaganda strategy adopted by the Americans in the early 1950s was essentially defensive, designed to counter the arguments of Communist propaganda and to show that there was indeed a valuable American culture and to highlight its strong links with European culture.

During the Cold War, the United States did not succeed in counterbalancing the Soviet strategy of being the heralds of "great culture," especially since in Western Europe a certain anti-Americanism and the pre-eminent place occupied by "left-wing intellectuals" tended to give credence to the idea of their cultural poverty. On the other hand, the United States is the place par excellence of creative freedom, of unlimited avant-gardism, whose innovations and provocations are observed throughout the world and taken up, even if they do not always meet with the approval of the general public. The cultural influence of the United States is expressed above all through popular culture (or mass culture), which invades Western Europe and manages to cross the Iron Curtain.

Institutions and state propaganda

Significant resources were mobilized and state institutions were created by the two great powers to implement their strategy in the field of culture. The official channels for the promotion and dissemination of culture were complemented by channels where political intervention was more discreet, if not totally hidden. This infrastructure is partly at the service of the dissemination of classical culture and independent cultural creation, provided that it reflects an image of society that conforms to the wishes of the political leaders, in order to project a strong cultural image. But it is also for a large part dedicated to cultural propaganda, in its own camp and in the other camp. In the 1940s and 1950s, the fight for culture was often a matter of propaganda, and then with the easing of relations on the European continent, culture was seen by both sides as an essential vehicle for a more elaborate struggle. On both sides, the media played an essential role in disseminating propaganda. Funded by the National Committee for a Free Europe, an offshoot of the CIA, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcast programs in Russian and in the languages of Eastern European countries. Voice of America, which was attached to the USIA, broadcast programs in the languages spoken in the USSR.

On the Soviet side, the VOKS (Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries) is the vector of its cultural diplomacy. Soviet propagandists identified very early on that cinema was an essential weapon in the war of ideas. The film production, entirely controlled by the State, presents the Soviet people as animated by strong moral values, modern and forward-looking. But this production in the vein of social realism and most often pure propaganda does not fit into the strategy of "high culture" and therefore meets little echo in the West. It is primarily intended for the population of the East. Initiated by the Cominform, the World Peace Council (WPC) was fully supported by intellectuals and artists as prestigious as Pablo Picasso, Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie, or Louis Aragon.

The CLC funds magazines, including Encounter, trips, fellowships, articles, editions, concerts and exhibitions. Few Western artists and intellectuals have refused to benefit.

Many cultural exchanges are organized between the West and the East. Tours abroad by the great classical orchestras and international music competitions were stakes in the cultural competition. In the 1950s, the communist states developed cultural exchanges with the West. The USSR joined UNESCO in 1954 and the GDR became a member in 1972. In the 1960s, after the building of the Berlin Wall, the GDR established a permanent program of cultural exchanges with the United States, and it increased the number of invitations to Western intellectuals and artists, with the aim of building the image of a state steeped in culture and obtaining a form of international recognition. In 1967, the member states of the Warsaw Pact began to propose a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to improve intra-European cultural and political dialogue and mutual trust in military matters. The CSCE was finally established in 1973. During this era of détente, the Soviet and American cinemas co-produced an adaptation of a Russian fairy tale, The Blue Bird, in 1976.

Europe, the main field of the cultural battle

The Cold War privileged culture and cultural relations in Europe to an unprecedented degree. The "great European culture" inherited from the Age of Enlightenment benefited from significant public and private resources that allowed for the organization of cultural events and exchanges in all the arts; in this area, the East took center stage, particularly in the fields of dance and music. On the other hand, in the field of "popular culture" accessible to the greatest number of people thanks to the accelerated development of the mass media after the war, America exerted considerable influence in the West as in the East, without however erasing its image of a materialistic and individualistic society and without succeeding in avoiding the resistance of Europeans to preserve their cultural identities.

With a divided Germany at the center of the East-West confrontation, the two Great Ones spent more time and money on the cultural Cold War in that country than on any other region or continent. Capitalizing on their victory over Nazism, the Soviets posed as the saviors and inheritors of the great Western culture. They quickly set up an important cultural infrastructure that opened up access to theater, music and dance in particular. Opposing Western imperialism and militarism to Communist pacifism, the Soviets praised the superiority of their classical culture and criticized avant-garde currents such as surrealism. The strategy of the Soviet and East German media to emphasize classical German culture and the great German literary and musical figures resonated with the West German population.

The massive influx of American popular culture into Europe, condemned by communists and conservative intellectuals, but welcomed in general and especially by youth, was a factor in both the success and failure of American propaganda in Europe. In the West as in the East, people assimilated elements of this popular culture and often made it their own. But American popular culture did not improve the image of the United States in Europe: instead, left-wing intellectuals took up the language of protest that emerged in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s to express their long-standing prejudice against American civilization. Anti-Americanism, fueled by Soviet propaganda and its national relays, mobilized some cultural actors in the name of defending peace.

The adherence to the American model, the American way of life, is most visible in the consumer revolution that accompanies the economic growth of Western Europe. For many, the United States appears as an abundant and moving society, always one step ahead of an old-fashioned and conservative Europe. The considerable place that American popular culture occupies in this model gives it, through its music, films and fashion, a predominant position. It is through this channel of popular consumption that American culture and the American model of society spread everywhere, much more than through the propaganda actions organized by the American government. According to Westad, "Although the music of Elvis Presley or the films of Marlon Brando or James Dean were not designed to propagandize the American way of life, they were appreciated by European youth, in part because of their rebellious spirit. In the mid-1950s, American and European teenagers were more united by Brando than by NATO."

After the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, legal and physical restrictions severely hampered the flow of Western popular music, film and literature behind the Iron Curtain. From that point on, Eastern Europeans could no longer openly use the ideas and values of popular culture to criticize their governments; instead, listening to pop music or dressing in Western fashions became a way to protest the government as well as state-run cultural productions and artifacts.

The historiography of the Cold War encompasses several disciplines: initially approached essentially from the angle of the history of international relations and political science, it has recently become increasingly interested in the domestic and sociological history of the countries concerned, in the analysis of communist and Western ideologies, and in the place of culture.

The vast bibliography on the Cold War has developed since its inception, thus rapidly opening the way to controversies on the interpretation of its origins and course among historians, political scientists and journalists. The Cold War has the particularity of having been thought of from the beginning and concomitantly to its development as a historical period. The view of the Cold War has thus evolved according to its successive periods of tension or détente, and has been influenced by the progressive opening of archives since the 1990s.

Historians argue about who was responsible for the breakdown of the "Grand Alliance" between the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II and whether or not the conflict between the two superpowers was inevitable. Historians also debate the exact nature of the Cold War, the importance of nuclear weapons in its development, the respective crimes and benefits of the communist and Western systems, and the analysis of the crises that marked it.

General currents of thought

The reading of the Cold War from the perspective of international relations is based on three general currents of thought, "classical" or "orthodox", "revisionist" and "post-revisionist".

During the 1950s, few historians challenged the official American interpretation of the early Cold War. This "orthodox" school of thought blamed the Soviet Union and its expansion into Eastern Europe for the Cold War. For example, Herbert Feis, a noted historian and advisor to the U.S. State Department, argues in his 1957 book Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin: The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought that Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe in the postwar period was the cause of the outbreak of the Cold War; he also asserts that Roosevelt paved the way for Soviet aggression by agreeing to all of Stalin's demands at Yalta. Historians focus in the early years on Stalin himself and his policies, before communist ideology is put forward as the primary cause of the Cold War.

The "revisionist" current developed in the 1960s in the context of the Vietnam War. The precursor of this movement was William Appleman Williams: in his book The Tragedy of American Diplomacy published in 1959, he re-examined American foreign policy since 1890. His central thesis is that the expansionist policy pursued by the United States under the guise of defending the "free world" and its economic imperialism were the primary causes of the Cold War. Revisionists challenge the traditional view that the Soviet leadership was determined to spread communism around the world after the war. They argue that the Soviet Union's occupation of Eastern Europe was based on a defensive rationale and that the Soviet leadership sought to avoid encirclement by the United States and its allies. Politically situated on the left, the "anti-imperialist revisionists" considered that the United States, through the growing anti-communism of its foreign policy, bore at least as much responsibility as the USSR for the perpetuation of the Cold War. From the mid-1970s onward, "revisionist realists" saw the U.S.-Soviet rivalry primarily as a conflict of great power security needs and judged that the Soviet and American governments did not behave very differently from each other or from other great powers in history.

These theses, radically contrary to the first, provoked reactions in the 1970s and 1980s, which were then fueled from the beginning of the 1990s by the progressive opening of previously inaccessible archives and their in-depth exploitation. The historian John Lewis Gaddis is largely at the origin of this post-revisionist school with his book The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947, published in 1972, which synthesizes various interpretations. Gaddis argues that "neither side can be held solely responsible for the onset of the Cold War. Rather, historian Melvyn P. Leffler insists that it was not so much the Kremlin's actions as fears about the socio-economic dislocation of Europe, revolutionary nationalism, British weakness, and power issues in the Middle East that triggered U.S. initiatives to build an international system that was consistent with its conception of its national security. In 1997, in his new book We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History, written on the basis of partial Soviet archives, Gaddis asserted Moscow's overwhelming responsibility for the Cold War, and thus moved closer to the classical theses.

New approaches

Since the early 2000s, the study of the Cold War has favored new geographic and thematic approaches.

Many publications are devoted not only to a global vision of the Cold War, centered on the United States and the USSR, but also to its other actors. The first axis is the analysis of the role of the Eastern and Western European states in relation to each other and their relations with the two great powers. American policy in the late 1940s is best understood through its links with London, just as the study of relations between Mao Zedong's China and the USSR sheds light on Stalin's policy. The links between domestic and foreign policy, in the United States, or in Europe through, for example, the study of the role of the French and Italian communist parties, are another axis that sheds light on the factors that influenced the course of the Cold War.

The Third World in the Cold War has also become an important subject of historical study. The wars, and particularly those in the states that emerged from French Indochina, were initially given a great deal of prominence, which led to a focus on how the East and West brutally intervened in the decolonization process because of their global antagonism. Inevitably, this prism gives limited space to knowledge of the actors of local and national conflicts, their power games or their culture and politics. Nevertheless, the recent growth of historical research on Third World issues has led to a critical mass of studies on politics, identity, religion or economics in the South.

Recent publications go beyond the usual diplomatic, security, and ideological focus to include thematic, economic, cultural and social, intellectual, and media visions. The Cambridge History of the Cold War, edited by Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad, published in 2010, is in line with this broad, inclusive, and pluralistic interpretation of Cold War history. Its authors find it not only enduring, but also inevitable: "we must place the Cold War in the larger context of time and space, within a web that connects the endless threads of history" and "we must indicate how Cold War conflicts are related to the broader trends in social, economic, and intellectual history, as well as the longer-term political and military developments of which they are a part." Economics and technology, culture and ideology, science and strategy, diplomacy and intellectual history combine to provide a multifaceted reading of the Cold War in the global context of the second half of the twentieth century. Lawrence Freedman, Professor Emeritus of War Studies at King's College London, emphasizes, however, the need to separate the Cold War from other strands of twentieth-century history, to determine what makes it distinctive and specific, and then to assess its interaction with all other strands, at the risk of defining it as an epoch, so that it would become possible to discuss almost everything that happened between 1945 and 1991 in its name.


The works are listed alphabetically by author's name.  Document used as a source for the writing of this article.


  1. Cold War
  2. Guerre froide

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